Applications for GOLD
There are three basic applications for GOLD.
The first application is to attach GOLD to satellites and rocket stages that are planned for launch. GOLD is then inflated, de-orbiting the object at the end of its useful life.
The second application is in an active debris removal program, which may be important if the orbital debris problem is ever to be reduced. Several GOLD devices could be carried to orbit by an orbital robot and placed on existing space junk like the defunct spacecraft that struck the Iridium satellite, permanently removing them from orbit and making the environment safer. GAC has found that GOLD is very effective in the 750 to 900 km altitude, high inclination orbit regime, which is a highly used portion of space and where the Iridium satellite was located.
In a third application, some large space objects require controlled, targeted de-orbit and reentry because too much material survives reentry and reaches the Earth’s surface where it can jeopardize the safety of people or property. In this application, illustrated below, when GOLD has reduced the orbit to the point of imminent entry, the large envelope is allowed to deflate under natural conditions to reduce drag and defer reentry a few days. After making good orbit predictions and using careful timing, the envelope is fully inflated at the correct point in the orbit to achieve a substantial atmospheric drag sufficient for prompt and safe reentry into the ocean.