Date of Award

12-2013

Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering

Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor

Kira Abercromby

Abstract

There is an increased need for spacecraft to quickly and efficiently de-orbit themselves as the amount of debris in orbit around Earth grows. Defunct spacecraft pose a significant threat to the LEO environment due to their risk of fragmentation. If these spacecraft are de-orbited at the end of their useful life their risk to future spacecraft is greatly lessened. A proposed method of efficiently de-orbiting spacecraft is to use an inflatable thin-film envelope to increase the body's area to mass ratio and thusly shortening its orbital lifetime. The system and analysis presented in this project is sized for use on a CubeSat as they are an effective utility as a technology demonstration platform. Analysis has been performed to characterize the orbital dynamics of high area to mass ratio spacecraft as well as the leak rate of such an inflatable device in a vacuum environment. Results show that a 1U CubeSat can be de-orbited using a 1.7 meter diameter spherical device in just under one year while using 0.7 grams of inflating gas, this is compared to over 25 years without any method of post-mission disposal.

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