Rocket Lab, Millennium, TriSept Send Space Debris Tether System to LEO
Millennium Space Systems, New Zealand-based launch provider Rocket Lab, and TriSept, one of the commercial space industry’s original rideshare and mission management service providers, have partnered to send small satellites into orbit that will de-orbit dangerous space debris in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).
Several 25-kilogram (kg) Millennium-built “Raptor” small satellites will launch on a TriSept-managed rideshare mission, dubbed “DRAGRACER” scheduled for launch aboard a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle in early 2020.
“The DRAGRACER mission is all about providing an affordable, effective and scalable solution to the orbital debris challenge facing the LEO small satellite market and the global space industry,” Mike Scardera, vice president of Advanced Concepts for Millennium Space Systems said in a statement. “It is the first in a series of critical project missions we expect to launch with TriSept. By working with such a seasoned support crew, we can focus on building the best flight solutions for today’s challenges in space.”
Once in orbit, one of the Raptor satellites will demonstrate a new “Terminator Tape” deorbit technology developed by Tethers Unlimited. Terminator Tape is designed to add significant drag to inoperable spacecraft and allow researchers to closely study how the device can dramatically accelerate reentry and the removal of orbital debris once a spacecraft reaches end of life. An onboard timer will trigger a tether deployment on the experimental Raptor satellites a few days into their mission, with reentry estimates in the two- to four-week range for the spacecraft with the Terminator Tape, and eight to 12 months without the enhanced drag device.
TriSept will provide full spacecraft integration with the launch vehicle and procurement of dispenser device hardware used to release the small satellites into space. TriSept will also take the lead in securing regulatory approvals from U.S. and New Zealand space agencies.
“The collaborative relationship between TriSept, Millennium Space Systems and Rocket Lab is driving new innovative and meaningful missions in space, such as the DRAGRACER initiative dedicated exploring creative solutions to the orbital space debris challenge,” said Rob Spicer, TriSept President and CEO. “We are honored that Millennium Space Systems has entrusted TriSept with the integration and management of this important mission aboard our second launch with the proven Rocket Lab Electron. DRAGRACER could ultimately help shape how the industry handles orbital debris for years to come.”
In a recent interview with Via Satellite, TriSept Director of Small Satellites Jason Armstrong said that this would be the first of many future industry collaborations required to tackle the increasing threat of space congestion and orbital debris. The full interview with Armstrong will be featured in an upcoming episode of the Via Satellite podcast, On Orbit.