The Doomed satellite was fitted with a drag sail to de-orb it after its mission was completed
Posted On September 15, 2021
A team from Purdue University developed a drag sail to attach to satellites to help them deorbit to combat space debris. Unfortunately, the rocket carrying the test device, launched by Firefly Aerospace, exploded shortly after launch.
Space debris is a growing problem, with tens of thousands of small objects constantly swirling around Earth. Each is a potential danger, capable of tearing solar panels and punching holes in the spaceship. One of the biggest sources of space waste is unused satellites, which remain in orbit even after the end of their lifespan. These satellites cannot be controlled or steered, so sometimes they have a bad habit of crashing into other things.
Mitigating this problem is essential for the future of spaceflight. One approach is to throw unwanted satellites into Earth’s atmosphere, which usually does a fairly good job of incinerating spacecraft.
A team of students, faculty, and staff from the Perdue University’s Space Flight Projects Lab developed Spinnaker3, a trailing sail that could one day be attached to satellites. The trailing sail would slow a satellite’s orbit at the end of its mission until it could dive into the atmosphere on its own.
Fully deployed, Spinnaker3 – named for the three-meter length of its carbon booms – was designed to measure 194 square feet when fully deployed and was made of CP1, a fluorinated polyimide developed by a high-performance materials designer. NeXolve.
The test chute was attached to the upper stage of Firefly Aerospace’s latest Alpha rocket, with take-off on September 2sd. Unfortunately, the rocket malfunctioned and exploded shortly after takeoff.
While this particular test ended in heartbreak, continued efforts like this are needed from space agencies and private companies around the world. A global effort is needed to reduce the growth of space waste and ensure the safety of manned and unmanned missions in Earth orbit. Hoping that Spinnaker4 is a success.