DeorbitSail Satellite Unsuccessful in Deploying Sail


Following its July 10, 2015, launch, the DeorbitSail satellite has achieved some, but not all, of its mission objectives, including contact with the satellite, solar panel deployment, and taking pictures of Earth. The satellite, a University of Surrey research project, carries a 1200 bps BPSK beacon transmitting on 145.975 MHz. DeorbitSail is a 3U CubeSat with a deployable sail to demonstrate rapid deorbiting.

“[W]e have struggled to accurately determine the satellite tumble rate and get it under control,” said an update from DeorbitSail Project Manager Chiara Massimiani, and Surrey Space Center (SSC) Director and DeorbitSail Principal Investigator Guglielmo Aglietti. “We know that the satellite has seen some very high spin rates for various reasons, including some inherent design/magnetic characteristics which have become apparent. Despite many attempts, we have unfortunately not been able to deploy the sail, and having recently thoroughly analyzed and investigated the possible causes, mission events and ground test data and history, we are now reaching the conclusion that achieving successful sail deployment is very unlikely.” The team has been trying to deploy the deorbiting sail since August.

“The operations phase has been a learning and sometimes stressful experience for all of the team at SSC, with a lot of head scratching and sleepless nights involved,” the team said in its update. “The aim now is to exercise and exploit the parts of the satellite that are working, and gain more confidence and experience…” — Thanks to AMSAT News Service and AMSAT-UK