ESA DragLiner

Tether Based System for Passive Telecom Spacecraft Deorbiting Within Around 100 Days

The goal of this project is to design, manufacture, assemble and test a Breadboard Model (BBM) of a Tether-based deorbiting system for Low-Earth Orbit Satcoms, and to analyse and optimise a de-orbiting strategy that makes use of this technology to achieve a successful deorbiting within 100 days (as a goal), down to an altitude of maximum 400 km.


Most of current deorbiting systems require the resources of the spacecraft propulsion subsystem. This leads to an oversizing of the subsystem to enable a deorbiting manoeuvre at end of life. Passive deorbiting removes the need to store extra fuel for deorbiting purposes.

The two main passive deorbiting systems are sails and tethers. This project will focus on tethers, as they have a simpler deployment system and the potential for better performance than sails, in particular flexibility to trade-off de-orbiting time against tether length. The foreseen system shall be compatible with any LEO orbit up to 1,400 km of altitude and any spacecraft with a mass up to 250 kg for a targeted deorbit system mass of around 5 kg.

This project will cover the design of the tether, including the interfaces with the host spacecraft, and manufacturing and testing of the deployment system. A collision avoidance analysis will be performed to ensure that the deployed system will be safe in a realistic operating environment