The European Space Agency has successfully tested a solar sail-type device that shortens the deorbit time of a used CubeSat carrier in Earth orbit.So-called break sail, drag aenhancement DeoThe rbiting System (ADEO) will be deployed from the ION satellite carrier in late December 2022. The engineer estimates that the sail will reduce the time it takes for the carrier to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, he said, from four to five years to about 15 months.
Sails are one of many ideas and efforts to reduce space junk in Earth orbit.
“We want to establish a zero-debris policy, which means that once the spacecraft is in orbit, it must be removed,” said ESA Executive Director Josef Aschbacher.
last year, China successfully deployed a similar sail from its Long March 2 rocket.
ESA says Sails provide a passive way out of orbit by increasing the drag effect of the atmospheric surface and accelerating the decay of the satellite’s orbital altitude. “Satellites will eventually burn up in the atmosphere, providing a faster, residue-free disposal method.”
This test was the final in-flight qualification flight required to provide a technical proof of concept. A smaller 2.5 square meter sail was attached to the upper stage. electronic rocket The ADEO sail was previously tested on several parabolic flights from 2019 to 2022. This larger orbital version is ION satellite carrier of the Italian space company D-ORBIT, It unfolds with a cubesat and weighs 160 kg (350 lbs).
The sail membrane has a surface area of 3.6 square meters and is made of aluminum coated polyamide. It was packed in a surprisingly small container of 10 x 10 x 10 cm. According to ESA, the size of the sail can be scaled up for medium and large size satellites. Also, multiple sails can be used for larger sections such as the upper rocket stage. Different sizes can be made to order, depending on the initial orbit, satellite mass, and desired deorbit time. The largest variation can span 100 square meters and can take up to 45 minutes to deploy. The smallest sail available is just 3.5 square meters and deploys in just 0.8 seconds.
During orbital testing, ION’s cameras captured the deployment of ADEO. ESA determined that the satellite carrier immediately slowed down to begin the deorbit process.
More information on testing can be found on the ESA website.