Aerospace Engineering Department

Degree Name

BS in Aerospace Engineering




Kira Abercromby


This report examines the effectiveness of a drag sail to de-orbit upper stage rocket bodies. Many other perturbations contribute to the de-orbiting of these rocket bodies, and these perturbations will also be discussed briefly. This paper will show the length of time needed to force the altitudes of various launch vehicle stages with varying drag area sizes to less than 100 km. The upper stage of the Delta IV launch vehicle in an orbit with an altitude of 500 km will naturally de-orbit in 720 days but when equipped with a 20 m2 drag sail, it will de-orbit in just 510 days. For this particular example the 29% reduction in de-orbit time is very significant. Multiple examples will be displayed in this report to demonstrate the effectiveness of such a drag sail.