The InflateSail CubeSat Mission: The First European Demonstration of Drag-Sail De-Orbiting

Craig Underwood, Andrew Viquerat, Mark Schenk, Simon Fellowes, Ben Taylor, Chiara Massimiani, Richard Duke, Brian Stewart, Chris Bridges, Davide Masutti, Amandine Denis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

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The InflateSail (QB50-UK06) CubeSat, designed and built at the Surrey Space Centre (SSC) at the University of Surrey, UK, for the Von Karman Institute (VKI), Belgium – was one of the technology demonstrators for the QB50 pro-gramme. The 3.2 kilogram 3U CubeSat was equipped with a 1 metre long in-flatable boom and a 10m2 deployable drag sail. InflateSail's primary mission was to demonstrate the effectiveness of using a drag sail in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to dramatically increase the rate at which satellites lose altitude and re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and it was one of 31 satellites that were launched simultaneously on the PSLV (polar satellite launch vehicle) C-38 from Sri-harikota, India on 23rd June 2017 into a 505km, 97.44o Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). Shortly after orbital insertion, InflateSail booted-up, and, once safely clear of the other satellites on the launch, it automatically activated its payload – firstly, deploying a 1 metre long inflatable boom comprising a metal-polymer laminate tube, using a cool gas generator (CGG) to provide the inflation gas, and secondly, using a brushless DC motor at the end of the boom to extend four lightweight bistable rigid composite (BRC) booms to draw out the 3.1m x 3.1m square, 12 micron thick polymer drag-sail. As intended, the satellite immediately began to lose altitude, and re-entered the atmosphere just 72 days later – thus demonstrating for the first time the de-orbiting of a spacecraft using European inflatable and drag-sail technologies. The boom/drag-sail technology developed by SSC will next be used on the RemoveDebris mission, due for launch in 2018, which will demonstrate the capturing and de-orbiting of artificial space debris targets using a net and harpoon system
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVolume 163 of the Advances in the Astronautical Sciences Series
Subtitle of host publicationFourth IAA Conference on Dynamics and Control of Space Systems, University Satellite Missions and CubeSat Workshop
PublisherUnivelt Inc.
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780877036487
ISBN (Print)9780877036470
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2017

Publication series

NameAstronautical Sciences Series
PublisherUnivelt Inc.
ISSN (Print)0065-3438


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