A winch system provides a method for launch and recovery capabilities for kites and tethered blimps or balloons. Low power consumption is a key objective, as well as low weight for portability. This is accomplished by decoupling the tether-line storage and winding/ unwinding functions, and providing tailored and efficient mechanisms for each. The components of this system include rotational power input devices such as electric motors or other apparatus, line winding/unwinding reel(s), line storage reel(s), and independent drive trains.
Power is applied to the wind/unwind reels to transport the tether line. Power is also applied to a line storage reel, from either the wind/unwind power source, the wind/unwind reel itself, or separate power source. The speeds of the two reels are synchronized, but not dependent on each other. This is accomplished via clutch mechanisms, variable transmissions, or independent motor controls. The speed of the storage reel is modulated as the effective diameter of the reel changes with line accumulation.
This work was done by Ted Miles and Geoff Bland of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16014-1