Experimental technology from Purdue University is scheduled to head into space. The university says the Aerodynamic Deorbit Experiment, designed by associate professor David Spencer, has been selected to go into orbit on a United Launch Alliance rocket in 2018.
Spencer says the experiment features what is called an ADE CubeSat, which is a small-scale prototype of a device that can be used to deorbit 150 kg-class satellites from orbit in less than 25 years. The university says without deorbit capabilities, satellites can stay in orbit for more than 100 years past their use.
Purdue says the CubeSat contains a "drag sail" that will deploy either by itself via a timer or by a command sent from the ground. At that point, the ADE is expected to deorbit within 11 days and burn up about 40 miles above the Earth’s surface.
"Private companies are actively pursuing the deployment of thousands of small satellites into this regime for global internet service," said Spencer. "A successful ADE mission will demonstrate the viability of the drag device, with commercial applications relevant to the deorbit of large constellations of satellites."
Spencer says he will offer a course called Space Flight Project Implementation in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics in the spring in which students can be involved with the design, integration and testing of the experiment.
The experiment was one of four selected as part of ULA’s rideshare program, CubeCorp. Purdue says a launch date has been targeted in 2018, though the specific date was not released.