Controlled Spacecraft Re-Entry of a Drag De-Orbit Device (D3)


  • Tanya Martin University of Florida
  • Sanny Omar
  • Riccardo Bevilacqua



aerodynamic drag, controlled re-entry, CubeSat, de-orbit, satellite, vibration


For spacecraft containing components that survive re-entry, it is important to de-orbit the satellite over a non-populated area. Because most CubeSats (cube satellites that conform to the CubeSat form factor) do not have their own propulsion systems and cannot perform a de-orbit burn, aerodynamic drag modulation presents an attractive solution to re-enter the satellite at the desired location. The University of Florida Advanced Autonomous Multiple Spacecraft (ADAMUS) lab has developed a drag de-orbit device (D3) for CubeSats, which are affordable systems for demonstrating attitude and orbit control. The device consists of four retractable tape-spring booms that are designed and manufactured to validate the targeted re-entry of a CubeSat in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). By modulating the D3 drag area, orbital maneuvering and controlled re-entry can be performed. This paper outlines the functional and vibration testing procedures and results for the completed device. The complete drag device was taken to NASA Ames Research Center and subjected to random vibrations at 9.6 times the force of gravity. The device survived vibration testing with no obvious damage. After vibration testing, it was determined that no major mechanical design changes to the D3 will need to be made. Future work for this project includes assembling a final, flight-ready drag device that will be attached to a CubeSat for launch.