High Gain Antenna Gimbal (HGAG) for the rover Perseverance of the Mars 2020 mission
Due to the high cost involved, most satellites are not removed after their mission is completed. This fact, together with spontaneous explosions in orbits as a result of the harsh space environment, has caused the accumulation of a high number of space debris in Low Earth Orbit. They represent a threat since, when a collision occurs between two objects in orbit, a cloud of dangerous shrapnels for operational satellites is generated.
As a solution to this problem, the E. T. PACK-Fly project has been conceived, a device capable of deorbiting using an electrodynamic space tether. A disruptive technology that makes it possible to generate electrical power and thrust on board space vehicles in orbit and does not require propellant.
The system is basically a tether, in the form of an aluminum tape a couple kilometers long and a couple inches wide, that trails out from the satellite, which works by using the plasma around the Earth and the geomagnetic field to generate an electric current.
This electrodynamic effect results in a force known as the Lorentz drag. This force deorbits the satellite up to the reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, where it is eliminated by the heat generated by this process. The tether is the fundamental part of the deorbiting device which, since it does not require fuel, is small and light. It is also designed to stabilise the attitude of the satellite, and to control the deorbiting manoeuvre in order to avoid possible collisions with other objects.
The E.T. PACK-Fly project is the continuation of the E.T. PACK project. A first prototype of the deorbit device was developed and built in the framework of E.T.PACK.
The E.T.PACK-Fly consortium is coordinated by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and made up of the University of Padova, the Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden), the company Sener and the German start-up Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA).
E.T.PACK-Fly is an EIC Transition Project funded by the European Innovation Council with 2.5 M€.