The “drag sail” concept, designed to help move space junk out of orbit, has just received a cash injection.
Spinnaker concept with small derailment satellite Received $375,000 in seed funding from investment firm Manhattan West. NASA Matched under the Small Business Innovative Research Phase II-Extended (SBIR Phase II-E) agreement.
The combined funding of $750,000 will convert Vestigo Aerospace’s product line into commercial production, the company said. Purdue University Release (opens in new tab)with first sales expected in 2023. (The technology is licensed through Purdue.)
The funding follows numerous discussions in the U.S. space community over space debris in recent weeks, including new pledges by the Federal Communications Commission to address the growing problem through the Biden administration’s policies.
Related: Space junk removal is slow
Vestigo Founder and CEO David Spencer said: “Bolt-on drag sails are one of the ‘preventive measures’ against the orbital debris problem,” he said. Preventing this problem could stop the growth of the orbital economy. “
While the technology is in its early stages, Vestigo wanted to test the Spinnaker3 concept in orbit. However, that prototype was destroyed during the debut test flight of his Alpha rocket for Firefly Aerospace, ending in an explosion shortly after launch in September 2021.
Once operational, Vestigo said, it should be possible to deploy the drag sail to the satellite whether it is functioning or not. “The drag sail can be deployed via command or a backup timer, providing reliable deorbit capability even when the host vehicle is not functioning,” the release states.
Drag sails are not just spinnakers. It was the first spacecraft to demonstrate similar active space debris removal technology deployed from the International Space Station in 2018, and China tested its own drag sail in 2022.