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Gossamer sails for satellite de-orbiting : mission analysis and applications.

Visagie, Lourens (2016) Gossamer sails for satellite de-orbiting : mission analysis and applications. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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The requirement for satellites to have a mitigation or deorbiting strategy has been brought about by the ever increasing amount of debris in Earth orbit. Studies have been used to formulate space debris mitigation guidelines, and adherence to these guidelines would theoretically lead to a sustainable environment for future satellite launches and operations. Deployable sail designs that have traditionally been studied and used for solar sails are increasingly being considered for de-orbit applications. Such sail designs benefit from a low mass and large surface area to achieve efficient thrust. A sail has the potential to be used for drag augmentation, to reduce the time until re-entry, or as an actual solar sail – to deorbit from higher orbits. A number of concerns for sail-based deorbiting are addressed in this thesis. One of these concerns is the ability of a sail to mitigate the risk of a collision. By investigating both the area-time-product (ATP) and collision probability it is shown that a gossamer sail used for deorbiting will lead to a reduction in overall collision risk. The extent to which the risk is reduced is investigated and the contributing factors assessed. Another concern is that of attitude stability of a host satellite and deorbit sail. One of the biggest benefits of drag augmentation is the fact that it can achieve the deorbiting goal with an inactive host satellite. There is thus no need for active control, communications or power after deployment. But a simple 2D sail will lose efficiency as a deorbiting device if it is not optimally oriented. It was found in this research that it is possible for a host satellite with attached sail to maintain a stable attitude under passive conditions in a drag deorbiting mode. Finally, in order to fully prove the benefit of sail-based deorbiting it is shown that in certain scenarios this alternative might be more efficient at reducing collision risk, weighs less, and has less operational requirements than other alternatives such as electrodynamic tethers and conventional propulsion. This thesis aims to cover the fundamental concerns of a sail-based deorbiting device at mission level by firstly addressing the mission analysis aspects and then applying it to specific scenarios. The theory and methods required to perform mission analysis for a sail-based deorbiting strategy is presented. These methods are then used to demonstrate passive attitude stability for a drag sail, and reduction in collision risk, both in terms of the Area-Time-Product and collision probability. The analysis results are then further applied by identifying scenarios to which the proposed deorbiting device applies, and then performing a meaningful comparison by analysing a number of case studies. The application is made more concrete by comparison with likely contenders – traditional propulsion, electrodynamic tethers and an inflatable sphere.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects : Satellite, Deorbiting, Solar sail
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Date : 30 June 2016
Funders : N/A
Contributors :
ContributionNameEmailORCID, C.P.
Depositing User : Lourens Visagie
Date Deposited : 12 Jul 2016 08:32
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 18:22

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