The objective of the activity is to design, manufacture and test in orbit an inflatable drag device for de-orbiting small satellites from Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Performance data will be gathered (deployment imagery and positional telemetry) in a fully representative space environment (including drag effects) that would not be possible to simulate or test on ground. Targeted Improvements:Reduce de-orbit time by a factor of 5 (for altitudes of 450-650km) in comparison to natural orbit decay. Description:There is an increasing number of satellites in LEO predominantly due to large constellations required for the growing market of satcom services. To avoid orbital saturation, there is a critical need to develop simple, readily available de-orbiting devices that the small satelliteindustry is willing to adopt. At low orbits (<450km) atmospheric drag naturally de-orbits the spacecraft. At higher altitudes (>450km)drag is less significant and hence there is a need to develop de-orbiting technologies. Current developments make use of deployablesails but are too complex and too bulky for small satellites (up to 200Kg). This activity will develop and test in orbit an inflatable drag device aimed at de-orbiting small satellites (<200kg mass) within 10 years from altitude range 450-650 km to comply withfuture telecom regulations and international standards. The activity shall spin-in proven terrestrial technologies such as airbags fromthe automotive sector. It is critical that the device is as simple as possible with minimal number of mechanisms and shall becompatible with volume production requirements. It shall be developed for integration within existing platforms and scalable for a range of small satellite sizes. It shall have a low mass to volume ratio, be highly reliable and survive micrometeorite impacts. Thedevice shall incorporate a backup passive activation system. This will enable fail safe actuation at the end of the mission or for out of control tumbling satellites. The passive actuation time period shall be tuneable commensurate with the mission lifetime. Possibletriggering mechanisms could make use of accumulated exposure to the space environment (e.g. vacuum, atomic oxygen, radiation). In-orbit testing is essential as a representative space environment including drag effects are not be possible to be simulated or testedon ground. The devices will be embarked on a 6U Cubesat platform or similar and an accelerated spacecraft de-orbiting test willbe carriedout. Test data will be collected in the form of in-flight imagery of the deployment as well as GNSS data. In addition, de-orbiting will be tracked from ground.
Footnote: A request for initiation has been received for this former On Delegation Request activity.