Drag-enhancing deorbit devices for spacecraft self-disposal: A review of progress and opportunities
Rhatigan, Jennifer L.
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Attention to the need to deorbit spacecraft at end-of-life will only intensify as space-faring nations grapple with the problems of increasingly crowded orbits. The use of drag devices for spacecraft self-disposal in low Earth orbit (LEO) merits review now. Drag-enhancing deorbit devices can be used to offset propellant reserved for deorbit operations and to extend mission life. Drag devices offer increased compliance with debris mitigation standards and can also offer other system-level advantages such as mass savings. We analyze the "trade-space" for spacecraft that are best suited to make use of this technology with specific examples. Our findings suggest that drag devices are well suited for both small and mid-sized LEO spacecraft. The suitability and feasibility of drag devices for small spacecraft (<200 kg) are proven and we review what has been achieved in this regard. Many mid-sized spacecraft are likely to burn-up during reentry and thus likely to meet the less-than-1-in-10,000 casualty risk requirement. We address recent progress in this area; showing that only moderate increases in cross-sectional area (~ tens of square meters) are necessary to apply this technol- ogy to mid-sized spacecraft to reduce the orbital lifetime below the prescribed 25-year limit. Drag devices with such areas have been demonstrated, albeit not on mid-size spacecraft. We address design guidelines to improve the attractiveness of drag devices for the larger classes of spacecraft, along with developmental and research opportunities to expand the technology beyond the demonstration phase.
The article of record as published may be found at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsse.2020.07.026
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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