Called “Spinnaker3,” this drag sail isn’t the first to be launched into space. But it is among the first to be large enough for deorbiting the upper stage of a launch vehicle. The Firefly Alpha launch will target an orbit altitude of about 200 miles, but the Spinnaker3 drag sail is capable of providing deorbit capability from orbit altitudes of 400 miles or greater.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A rocket is going up into space with a drag sail. The goal? For the drag sail to bring the rocket back to Earth, preventing it from becoming like the thousands of pieces of space junk in Earth’s lower orbit.
The drag sail, developed by Purdue University engineers, will be on board a Firefly Aerospace rocket expected to launch in November from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
This sail and six other “Dedicated Research and Education Accelerator Mission” (DREAM) payloads are flying on Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha launch, the first flight for the launch vehicle company.