Credit: Roccor


A deployable atmospheric drag deorbit device called ROC™ FALL has entered into the marketplace, facilitating the reliable and predictable passive deorbit of spacecraft at end-of-life.

Roccor, based in Longmont, Colorado, has developed a simple roll-out drag sail design to meet the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) 25-year deorbit lifetime guideline.

Recently, a large defense contractor developing a 150kg class small satellite for launch on the  U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program-2 (STP2) mission came to Roccor to provide a baseline strategy to ensure deorbit within 25 years after the spacecraft’s end of life. The booster for STP2 is a SpaceX Falcon Heavy to be loaded with a cluster of military and scientific research satellites.

Despite being given minimal payload volume, mass, development time, and budget with which to work, Roccor was able to develop a simple roll-out drag sail design to meet the requirements.

The result was Roccor’s ROC™ FALL concept, a cost-effective solution with regulatory approval for end-of-life management.

Credit: Roccor

Two tail-feathers

“Given the hazard to all space users that uncontrolled orbital debris can pose, for example the recent Chinese Space Station that crashed to Earth, it is more important than ever to have systems in place upon launch that will ensure safe end-of-life systems now and decades to come,” said Doug Campbell, president and CEO of Roccor, in a press statement.

Dana Turse, Director of Space R&D Programs, Roccor adds that the FCC is now enforcing this 25-year standard on all U.S.-based satellite users who apply for an FCC license. “Yes, U.S. satellites that carry radios that communicate with the ground must have an FCC license in order to operate… and that’s why the FCC is interested in space trash!”

Turse notes that Roccor conceived of the idea to add two tail-feather-light deployable sheets to an unused outer deck of the satellite.

Credit: Roccor

“At the end of the satellite’s useful life, these so-called ROC™ FALL “feathers”2 will be extended out several meters in length and produce enough drag to slow the satellite gradually and ensure it de-orbits long before the IADC-mandated 25-year limit,” Turse explains.

Reverse the trend

“So, we know we can reverse the trend of increasing space debris, and we’ve shown it doesn’t have to break the bank,” Turse continues. “Moreover, we believe we should not wait for international treaties or further regulations from the U.S. government to compel us to do so. The US satellite industry should embrace a Space Age leave no trace ethic and show the rest of the spacefaring nations how to protect the economic – if not environmental – sanctity of space,” she concludes.

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2 Responses to “New Deorbit Device: ROC FALL (Updated)”

  • James Dunstan says:

    Having a satellite receive an FCC authorization using a particular technology is not the same thing as saying “FCC Deorbit Approved.” The FCC looks dimly at people making claims that the Commission has approved a particular technology.

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