A new passive reentry system is proposed for deorbiting spacecraft from low earth orbit (LEO). The proposed DragSail system is based upon a restowable and redeployable concept that allows for increase or decrease of surface area thus modulating aerodynamic drag of the system. Modulation of the drag will allow the system to guide small spacecraft to specific locations at the Von Karman altitude, which is necessary for precision reentry targeting. The primary objective of this DragSail design is to deorbit small spacecraft from LEO altitudes in 25 years or less using a modular DragSail system with minimal weight and stowage volume. The proposed DragSail system is based on NeXolve-developed lightweight solar sail and deployment system technologies. The concept design consists of ultralightweight polyimide thin-film material that is attached to a deployable boom structure to create a flexible DragSail system with shape morphing capability. A key feature of this DragSail system is its ability to deploy as a 2-D structure and then shape morph into a 3-D structure that allows drag in all orbital orientations. Another attractive feature of the design is that the system is a self-contained unit that can be attached to many different types of CubeSats and small satellites.
The DragSail system proposed herein is a scalable system that will allow CubeSats and small satellites up to 200 kg to deorbit from altitudes between approximately 700-1100 km in 25 years or less with the potential for similar results up to 2,000 km. This innovative restowable, redeployable 3-D shape morphing membrane system is capable of increasing cross-sectional area impinging in all positions along an orbital path. Partial deployment or partial morphing will enable changes in orbital decay rates allowing for collision avoidance as well as targeted atmospheric re-entry. This 3D shape morphing capability is a significant advantage over flat (2-D) constructions.
The proposed DragSail system is clearly relevant to numerous NASA applications. Some specific NASA applications for the proposed DragSail system include:
Some more general NASA applications include:
Due to the mandated deorbit requirements, almost any future Earth orbiting small satellite or CubeSat is a potential application for the proposed DragSail system. Some specific Non-NASA applications for the proposed DragSail system include: