Cranfield De-Orbiting Sail Products

Space debris mitigation policies are increasingly being mandated in order to limit or reduce the growth of the debris population in Earth orbit with the ESA Clean Space initiative establishing Space Debris Mitigation requirements.  The Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) mitigation guidelines express the removal of space systems within the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) region be de-orbited not later than 25 years after the End of Mission. 

Cranfield Aerospace Solutions Limited (CAeS) declare the availability of the Cranfield Drag Augmentation System (DAS).

(Credit: SSTL)

The DAS is an atmospheric drag augmentation system that deploys a De-Orbiting sail (or film Aerobrake) from LEO satellites to increase drag to more rapidly de-orbit the satellite. Developed by the Cranfield University Space Research Group, the DAS is already in Earth orbit: Icarus-1 was launched on SSTL TechDemoSat-1 (TDS-1) on 8 July 2014 and Icarus-3 was launched on SSTL Carbonite-1 on 10 July 2015. Both are still on mission.

(Credit: ALMA Space)

A smaller compact DAS named DOM (De-Orbiting Mechanism) aboard the European Space Agency (ESA) European Student Earth Orbiter (ESEO) aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on 3 December 2018.  All De-Orbiting Devices are configured to match each small or micro-satellite’s specific criteria (1000kg satellite, ~800km orbit) to allow expected de-orbit within a few years.

The Box-Frame design provides flexibility on a Satellite that has limited space. By fitting the frame around the edge of the Satellite no element of the sail will interfere with protrusions or equipment mounting on the side panel.  Additionally, mounting on the edge ensures the maximum amount of influential Atmospheric Drag' area will be obtained.  The Box-Frame dimensions can be adapted to fit variable sizes of Satellite panels although the final sail size will be determined by the length of the smallest size.

Project: Icarus-1.  Currently in orbit on Satellite - TechDemoSat-1 (TDS-1)

  • Box-Frame fits around satellite side panel enabling equipment mounting
  • Booms & Trapezoidal Kapton sails folded into aluminium frame
  • Deployment via passive release of stored energy in tape springs
  • Mass = 3.5 kg for ~5 m2 sail area
  • TechDemoSat-1: 150kg, ~635km orbit
(Credit: SSTL)
(Credit: Cranfield Space Group)

Project: Icarus-3. Currently in orbit on Satellite -  Carbonite-1 (CBNT-1)

  • Box-Frame fits around satellite side panel allowing equipment mounting on panel
  • Booms & Trapezoidal Kapton sails folded into aluminium frame
  • Deployment via passive release of stored energy in tape springs
  • Mass = 2.3 kg for ~2 m2 sail area
  • Carbonite-1: 80 kg, ~650km orbit
  • Sail Deployment Video: Icarus-3
(Credit: SSTL)
(Credit: Cranfield Space Group)

The Compact design of Drag Augmentation System is a scaleable system that can be mounted in a small space on the Satellite and, also provide the capability of an atmosheric drag sail to be mounted on smaller Satellite systems.  This fexibility and size opens the prospect of mounting multiple drag sails to the same Satellite to step up the drag area and be used in a variety of Satellite designs. A compact system is called DOM (De-Orbiting Mechanism)

Project: DOM - Currently in orbit on Satellite -  European Student Earth Orbiter (ESEO)

  • Compact 140mm x 80mm x 56mm unit
  • Sail attached to coiled boom arms rolled around central spool
  • Deployment via strain energy stored in the boom arms during the coiling process
  • Mass = < 0.5kg for ~0.5 m2 sail area
  • ESEO:  45kg, ~520km orbit
  • Sail Deployment Video: DOM
(Credit: Cranfield Space Group)
(Credit: ALMASpace)
  • Low-cost
  • Simple (both design and interfaces to satellite)
  • Safe
  • Reliable
  • Mass ≤ propellant mass to deorbit
  • Minimal impact on host satellite
  • Easily testable in 1-g
  • No additional debris production
  • Tolerates some failures/degradation of host satellite

(Credit: ESA)

Cranfield Aerospace Solutions Ltd (CAeS) is an aerospace market leader in rapid prototyping of new aerospace concepts and modifications to existing aerospace platforms to meet the most challenging issues facing the industry today. 

Cranfield University is a British postgraduate and research-based public university specialising in science, engineering, technology and management. The De-Orbiting systems are developed by The Space Research Group.

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