TriSept Corporation and Millennium Space Systems preparations are underway for the experimental DRAG RACER orbital debris mission payload to be delivered to New Zealand and integrated aboard a Rocket Lab Electron before the planned launch this fall.
Millennium has completed space qualification of its two DRAG RACER smallsats that will embark on a first-of-its-kind LEO mission to help solve the orbital debris challenge in space.
The DRAG RACER mission will use scientific methods to compare the de-orbit performance of two identical satellites – one that will reenter naturally and a second satellite featuring a tether developed by Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) that is expected to significantly accelerate the de-orbit process.
Millennium plans to observe, evaluate and characterize the satellite hosting the 70-meter-long (230 feet) Terminator Tape tether aboard the control satellite, while calibrating predictive models through the use of radar tracking data. An onboard timer will trigger the tether deployment on the experimental satellite a few days into the mission, with reentry estimates averaging about a month-and-a-half, while the untethered spacecraft could take up to nine years to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.
Once launched, the DRAG RACER mission payload will separate into two identical 6U satellites with identical stowed mass properties and drag coefficients.
“We are motivated to study and quantify space tether applications as they will offer the LEO space community worldwide both improved deorbit capabilities and unique propulsive solutions,” said Stan Dubyn, Millennium Space Systems Founder and CEO. “This orbital debris mitigation experiment exemplifies our commitment to fielding innovative concepts using low-cost solutions.”
“The DRAG RACER mission is built on an innovative collaboration between Millennium Space Systems, TriSept, Tether’s Unlimited and Rocket Lab that is dedicated to exploring and enabling creative and affordable solutions to the orbital debris challenge,” said Rob Spicer, TriSept President and CEO. “We look forward to leading the integration effort for this historic payload that could ultimately play an integral role in clearing orbital debris from Low Earth Orbit for years and generations to come.”
“The space community understands tether systems can expedite reentry, but this is our first opportunity to truly quantify performance directly and more effectively calibrate models developed over the last 50 years,” said Dr. Robert Hoyt, President of Tether’s Unlimited. “Predictions suggest the tethered spacecraft will deorbit in approximately 45 days, while the untethered spacecraft remains in orbit for approximately seven to nine years.”