Gossamer Orbit Lowering Device for Safe and Efficient De-orbit

An inflatable de-orbit system that accelerates natural orbit decay by orders of magnitude is discussed. Applications of GOLD include de-orbit of antiquated satellites, micro-satellites, spent stages, and derelict satellites. In this patented concept, a relatively large, ultralightweight envelope is stowed in a small package. GOLD can be used in a number of ways. It is most economical to attach it to a spacecraft or upper stage before launch. However, GOLD could be attached to existing large orbital debris objects using, for example, an electrically propelled orbital tender. For large dense objects that could pose a hazard to people or property on the ground during reentry, GOLD can be used to target reentry into an ocean. For most LEO satellites, GOLD is more mass and cost effective than chemical propulsion and can reduce de-orbit time, in some cases from many centuries to just a few months. Risk assessment indicates that GOLD, as compared with competing non-propulsive de-orbit concepts, does not contribute further to the orbital debris problem and has a lower risk to operating satellites.

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