Purdue Alumnus Attempts To Keep Clean Earth’s Orbit

Over 22,000 objects in outer space are under observation by the US Air Force. This is predicted to double over the course of the next 5 years, with globally increased satellite-based Internet services & private companies having to launch more satellites for keeping up with demand.

After going out of order, the satellites deorbit and enter Earth’s atmosphere. Though there is a low chance of the object causing death or injury by crashing into the Earth, it remains a possibility.

A space expert from Purdue is attempting to reduce that risk by ensuring reentry to be safer and smoother. Sailing tech is being employed by him to ensure this.

David Spencer, who is a former student from Purdue and professor at PSAA is currently head of a team that seeks to deorbit spacecraft and old satellites by implementing sail systems in this process.

Spencer has previously worked with NASA for over 17 years. After this tenure, he joined Purdue faculty. Spencer stated that he was developing drag sail tech which would attach themselves to launch vehicles or satellites and be deployed towards the mission’s end. This would help deorbit safer, remove excess energy & slow down space objects upon reentry.

This tech is due to be up in space by 2020. They will be attached to smallsats called CubeSats. The prototype is currently in its testing phase.

The main challenge is in packing sail material & necessary deployment booms within volume not more than half liters. The launch is to be expected in 2020. This would ensure Purdue’s leadership in cutting edge space tech.

This aligns with Giant Leaps commemoration at Purdue, which celebrates Purdue’s global contributions to space exploration. This is among the 4 themes of Ideas festival, underway at Purdue, designed to show the university’s abilities to resolve real-life issues.

The PRFOTC has filed patent applications for the project. Licensing options have also been signed with Vestigio Aerospace, which is Spencer’s company.

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