Tether "meteor"

Rob Matson (Rob_Matson@cpqm.saic.com)
11 Mar 1996 17:26:54 U

                      Subject:                              Time:  17:03
  OFFICE MEMO         Tether "meteor"                       Date:  96/03/11

An interesting thought occurred to me regarding the imminent demise of TSS and
its tether.  What's going to happen in the final hours?  Unlike ordinary
satellites, the tether occupies a considerable range of altitude, which means
the lowest portion will experience higher drag (and thus friction) than
higher-up portions.  At some point, shouldn't the bottom start to "burn" while
the upper portion is merely "hot"?  I know the thing's a good conductor, so
heat will tend to work its way up the tether. But intuitively it seems like
the thing should burn like a fuse, and that it will take a while.  If this is
the case, wouldn't the tether act like a long-lasting meteor, slowly burning
its way up to the satellite?  What a viewing opportunity if so!  You wouldn't
be limited to viewing sunlit-passes; ANY pass at night would be visible. 
Thoughts anyone?