Space Sail Experiment Speeds Up Satellite Disposal

ADEO deployed from the ION satellite carrier during the December 2022 test.
GIF: High Performance Spatial Structure Systems / Gizmodo

There’s a lot of trash orbiting our planet, from tiny specks of paint to outdated rocket stages. As solutions to clear pre-existing debris have been developed, a private space company in Germany has successfully tested a method to de-orbit end-of-life satellites to prevent them from becoming space junk in the first place.

The ADEO (Drag Augmentation Deorbiting System) braking sail was developed by High Performance Space Structure Systems to deorbit satellites at the end of their mission. During a space test in December 2022 called “Show Me Your Wings”, ADEO was deployed from a ION planet carriers built by private space company D-Orbit. ADEO managed to push the carrier out of orbit, sending it into the atmosphere to burn up.

Show me your wings” marks the final flight qualification test of ADEO like proof of concept after testing begins in 2018. The European Space Agency hopes ADEO will help prevent future decommissioned satellites from being put into orbit space debriswhich can pose a threat to space operations.

“We want to establish a zero-debris policy, which means that if you put a spacecraft in orbit, you have to take it out,” said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher. A press release.

ADEO – Deorbit Sailing on Angel Wings

ADEO is a 38 square feet (3.5-m²) sail made of a polyamide membrane coated with aluminum attached to four arms reinforced with carbon fiber positioned in the shape of X. Jhe sails increased surface drag when deployed from a satellite, causing faster decay orbit. ADEO can also be scaled up or down depending on the size of the satellite it is attached to. The largest version could reach 1,076 square feet (100 square meters), with the smallest sail being 37 square feet (3.5 square meters).

NASA estimates that 27,000 pieces of space junk are in orbit around the Earth, most of which are bigger than a softball and moving at speeds of around 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kilometers per hour). While the ESA has already announced its intention to remove the space debris in the form of decommissioned satellitesADEO is an attempt to prevent satellites from becoming debris in the first place.

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