Since the beginning of CubeSat history, these small satellites represented the cheapest and most flexible solution to enable space access both to university and private companies. Over the years, their role in student education has grown, bringing at the same time to the rise all over the world several small companies supplying off-the-shelf-components and equipment for CubeSat development. Due to their intrinsic simplicity and low cost (two aspects resulting from the growing standardization of CubeSat platforms), 47 nanosatellites with a mass ranging from 1 to about 5 kg have been successfully deployed in space during the last eight years, and many more are scheduled for launch in the near future. Considering the financial limitations typical of these small missions, most of these objects have been placed as piggyback payloads in orbits with altitudes ranging from few hundred up to one thousand kilometres. Consequently, only about 30% of them actually de-orbited cumulating an orbital lifetime from a few weeks up to several years. This means that many CubeSats will still remain in orbit for many years, worsening the already troublesome space debris problem. As a matter of fact, these simple objects do not typically have active manoeuvre capabilities and it might take up to tens of years before their complete atmospheric re-entry. In this study, considering the guidelines provided by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, the time, the cost and the technological issues required for the de- orbiting of these objects with a number of de-orbiting methods are addressed. Furthermore, in order to have an idea of the risk represented by the permanence of these objects in orbit, the Debris Index, a measure to express possible capability of fragment debris creation within the orbital lifetime, is also accounted for. In particular, de-orbiting methods relying on atmospheric drag, solar radiation pressure, electro-magnetic forces and conventional or unconventional propulsion schemes are considered and analyzed. The study aims at identifying the most promising technology to avoid an intensification of the space debris problem in spite of the future increase of the nanosatellite population in orbit. The same technology might be also an effective candidate for de-orbiting of larger satellites.

Analysis and Comparison of CubeSat Deorbiting Strategies

MARCUCCIO, SALVO
2012

Abstract

Since the beginning of CubeSat history, these small satellites represented the cheapest and most flexible solution to enable space access both to university and private companies. Over the years, their role in student education has grown, bringing at the same time to the rise all over the world several small companies supplying off-the-shelf-components and equipment for CubeSat development. Due to their intrinsic simplicity and low cost (two aspects resulting from the growing standardization of CubeSat platforms), 47 nanosatellites with a mass ranging from 1 to about 5 kg have been successfully deployed in space during the last eight years, and many more are scheduled for launch in the near future. Considering the financial limitations typical of these small missions, most of these objects have been placed as piggyback payloads in orbits with altitudes ranging from few hundred up to one thousand kilometres. Consequently, only about 30% of them actually de-orbited cumulating an orbital lifetime from a few weeks up to several years. This means that many CubeSats will still remain in orbit for many years, worsening the already troublesome space debris problem. As a matter of fact, these simple objects do not typically have active manoeuvre capabilities and it might take up to tens of years before their complete atmospheric re-entry. In this study, considering the guidelines provided by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, the time, the cost and the technological issues required for the de- orbiting of these objects with a number of de-orbiting methods are addressed. Furthermore, in order to have an idea of the risk represented by the permanence of these objects in orbit, the Debris Index, a measure to express possible capability of fragment debris creation within the orbital lifetime, is also accounted for. In particular, de-orbiting methods relying on atmospheric drag, solar radiation pressure, electro-magnetic forces and conventional or unconventional propulsion schemes are considered and analyzed. The study aims at identifying the most promising technology to avoid an intensification of the space debris problem in spite of the future increase of the nanosatellite population in orbit. The same technology might be also an effective candidate for de-orbiting of larger satellites.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11568/155494
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