Small US space firm AeroAstro is designing an aerobrake system that would allow small spacecraft to be deorbited at the end of their lives, reducing the risk of debris in low-Earth orbit (LEO). A conceptual design of the aerobrake deorbiting system (ADS) is being completed under a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contract.
Ashburn, Virginia-based AeroAstro says the self-contained aerobrake could be built into satellites before launch or attached in orbit to "retire" existing spacecraft at the end of their useful lives. The system could also be used in launch vehicles to deorbit the spent upper stages, the company says, eliminating a major source of space debris.
Leaving a spacecraft in LEO increases the likelihood it will be struck by space debris, potentially causing catastrophic failure and generating more debris, AeroAstro says. With the number of military and commercial satellites planned for LEO, a debris mitigation solution is a "must have", says chief executive Dr Rick Fleeter.
GRAHAM WARWICK / WASHINGTON DC
Source: Flight International