Purdue professor’s experiment selected to go into orbit

A Purdue University project has been picked to go into orbit (WLFI).
A Purdue University project has been picked to go into orbit (WLFI).

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A Purdue University project has been picked to go into orbit. The experiment plans to hitch a ride with a United Launch Alliance rocket in 2018.

The idea behind the experiment is to make space craft orbit more efficient.

Purdue associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics David Spencer is the man behind the idea. His proposal has been picked for a flight on a future Atlas V launch.

Spencer’s project is called the Aerodynamic Deorbit Experiment. It involves attaching a drag sail to a small spacecraft or small satellite called the CubeSat.

Spencer said most satellites stay in orbit, cluttering space. Rather than staying in the orbit, the drag sail will allow the space craft to fall out and deorbit at the end of its mission.

“So once we get this drag sail out, we expect that the space craft will deorbit in about 11 days. Without the sail, it would take about seven years to deorbit,” said Spencer. “That’s the type of difference that we’re making.”

Spencer’s students will design and build the drag sail and CubeSat in his spring and summer classes.

The class will build the model and run it through a series of tests to ensure it is launch-ready by 2018.