Credit: UNISEC Global

Credit: UNISEC Global

Given the growing aspirations of the smallsat community, a big concern is the mounting risk posed by orbital debris – and the potential contribution to the nagging problem by pico/nano/micro-satellites developers.

A contest is underway to suggest devices for expedited or controlled re-entry at the end of a satellite’s mission life.

To that end, the University Space Engineering Consortium (UNISEC) Global has put in place a Deorbit Device Competition – targeted at the university CubeSat community.

The competition is designed to facilitate the sharing of innovative solutions for debris mitigation and developing effective deorbit devices that can be demonstrated and validated with CubeSats.


Any proposed deorbit device is to be evaluated according to the following criteria:

Effectiveness – How effectively and how fast can the device make the satellite de-orbit?

Mass and envelope at launch – Does the device fit CubeSat (1U-3U) at launch?

Cost – Is it affordable for university satellites?

Technical feasibility/Mechanical and electrical design – Is the device designed to function properly?

Impact on the satellite – Is the device (power, mass, weight, etc.) suitable for CubeSat?

Reliability – Is the device designed to fail with a low probability?

Safety – Does the device influence other satellites when it is launched?

Maintenance before launch – Is the device robust and hard to break?

User friendliness – Is the device easy to interface to the satellite?

Debris risk – Does the device generate risks in producing additional debris? Will it function even if satellite has problem in functioning?

Lingering litter

DragNET Credit: MMA Design

Credit: MMA Design

As noted in a de-orbiting strategies review by Herman Styen earlier this year, abandoned satellites and rocket upper stages litter the environment around Earth. There is increased probability of collisions in Earth orbit. Furthermore, uncontrolled growth of the Earth orbiting debris population risks the safety of future operations.

Over the years, scads of solutions have been proposed, Styen notes, such as chemical and electric propulsion, electrodynamic tethers and deorbit sails.

The UNISEC Global competition is meant to improve awareness of the long-term sustainability of space activities.

StrathSat idea uses deployable reflective balloon. Credit: University of Strathclyde

StrathSat idea uses deployable reflective balloon.
Credit: University of Strathclyde


Technical approaches

The Deorbit Device Competition (DDC) is organized to identify possible technical approaches for cost effective and innovative system concepts for the deorbit device.

“Space engineers, researchers, students and all interested in contributing to the harmonious space development will be welcome to join and share ideas and plans,” notes the DDC website.





Note: The deadline for concepts submitted as abstracts is at month’s end – April 30, 2016. (This has now been changed to May 31, 2016.)

Final presentations of accepted concepts will be held in Istanbul, Turkey on October 21, 2016.

Details regarding the competition are available at:

One Response to “Wanted: Deorbit Device Ideas!”

  • Thank you for writing the article on Deorbit Device Competition. We received some requests after my posting to CubeSat Community and your introducing it to your readers, and have decided to postpone the deadline of abstract submission to May 31, 2016.

    With warm regards,

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