Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering


Kira Abercromby

Advisor Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


Once a satellite has completed its operational period, it must be removed responsibly in order to reduce the risk of impacting other missions. Geostationary Transfer Orbits (GTOs) offer unique challenges when considering disposal of spacecraft, as high eccentricity and orbital energy give rise to unique challenges for spacecraft designers. By leveraging small satellite research and integration techniques, a deployable drag sail module was analyzed that can shorten the expected orbit time of launch vehicle stages in GTO. A tool was developed to efficiently model spacecraft trajectories over long periods of time, which allowed for analysis of an object’s expected lifetime after its operational period had concluded. Material limitations on drag sail sizing and performance were also analyzed in order to conclude whether or not a system with the required orbital performance is feasible. It was determined that the sail materials and configuration is capable of surviving the expected GTO environment, and that a 49 m2 drag sail is capable of sufficiently shortening the amount of time that the space vehicles will remain in space.