The safe disposal of a satellite upon mission completion or in the event of satellite failure is necessary to preserve the utility of high-value orbits. Vestigo Aerospace is developing the Spinnaker product line of dragsails, sized to provide deorbit capability for host vehicles ranging from microsatellites to launch vehicle stages. Sizing takes into account both deorbit duration and probability of collision requirements. Substantial work was completed in Phase I to demonstrate the feasibility and benefit of dragsail aerodynamic stability. Evaluation of the six degree-of-freedom (6DOF) dynamics of the system allows determination of how to utilize passive aerodynamic stability in order to reduce deorbit times. A large database was generated characterizing the deorbit behavior and characteristics of various host/dragsail configurations. The Phase I study clearly shows the benefits using passive aerodynamic stability to increase the average drag coefficient of the vehicle during deorbit. The Phase II investigation will develop dragsail system prototypes and perform environmental testing. These prototypes, along with high-fidelity modeling and definition of Level 3 and Level 4 requirements, will establish TRL 6 for the dragsail designs. During Phase II, the 6DOF software will be enhanced and validated with flight data. Vehicle control surfaces for passive stability will be evaluated. Level 3 and 4 requirements will be defined. Reliability analysis will be performed, and will be used to inform the design. Command and telemetry dictionaries will be developed, and the Spinnaker3 18 m2 dragsail will be flight qualified on a Firefly launch, establishing TRL 7. Targeted reentry analysis will be performed to demonstrate the benefits of the deployable decelerators for constraining reentry corridors. Completion of the Phase II investigation will position Vestigo Aerospace for commercialization of the Spinnaker dragsail product line.
Every NASA satellite and launch vehicle that is delivered to low-Earth orbit must have an approved plan for its timely deorbit at end-of-mission. Current NASA programs that can benefit from dragsail technology include the Space Technology Mission Directorate Small Satellite Technology Program, and technology demonstration missions within the NASA Earth Science Technology Office. The Science Mission Directorate Earth Venture program can also utilize dragsails for deorbit capability.
Vestigo will market its dragsail systems to NOAA, the Department of Defense (DoD), the small satellite community, industry satellite providers, and small launch vehicle developers. Planned satellite mega-constellations represent a target market of thousands of units, providing major long-term growth potential for dragsail systems.