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ADEO L1 “ready for lift-off”: World’s largest operational brake sail for the disposal of space debris successfully tested

Dezember 2023

ADEO L1 “ready for lift-off”: World’s largest operational brake sail for the disposal of space debris successfully tested

HPS completes the ADEO sail fleet with its first largest version under the version named L1. Its 25 square meters of sail area unfolded successfully deployed on Monday, 4th of December 2023 in a final ground test after a complete completed PFM qualification campaign. This included vibration tests in all axes as well as tests under thermal vacuum, including hot and cold firing tests (tests to verify the deployment release mechanisms under extreme temperatures). The tests were carried out under responsibility of HPS Munich at the facilities of the DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen – a prime example of cooperation between industry and research & development. This final and most important test enjoyed great interest from the media (including SAT1, RTL, NTV, DPA) covering the 20-minute deflation process and interviewing the enthusiastic project team of HPS and DLR. Links to the articles and television videos can be found HERE.

This test is also a success of ESA’s GSTP program, which significantly supported the development of ADEO-L1 financially and technically. Technology programs in general are essential for independent SMEs in the space industry and their products on the way to market readiness and worldwide series sales.

The ADEO brake sails deploy after the end of the satellite’s mission and brace themselves against the resistance of the atmosphere that still prevails in orbits up to an altitude of just under one thousand kilometers. This deployment immediately leads to a drastic reduction of the speed of the satellite and the entire package sets off on its accelerated descent towards the earth’s atmosphere, where it then burns up in the frictional heat of up to two thousand degrees Celsius. The entire return process takes even significantly less time than the latest guidelines prescribe. Until recently, the process could take up to twenty-five years, while it must now be completed within five years. And, to ensure that operators follow the rules, launch service providers such as SpaceX no longer even take satellites into space if they are not equipped with the appropriate return technology from the outset.

The Munich-based space-tech company HPS had this development in mind more than ten years ago, when no one else was really thinking about ways to avoid space debris. With great support from the space agencies ESA and DLR, the DLR institutes in Bremen and Braunschweig, the companies DSI, Bremen, and formerly HTS, Coswig, plus a seven-digit-investment of HPS, the company´s highly committed young team of experts has created an entire product family under the generic name ADEO, from the smallest versions ADEO-P (Pico), ADEO-C (Cube) and ADEO-N(Nano), ADEO-M (Medium) and the latest member of the group, ADEO-L (Large). The development master plan not only extends even further to possible ADEO variants with up to 100 square meters of braking surface, but also leaves enough room for derivatives with completely different applications, such as the monitoring of space debris smaller than1 cm directly in space.

In its largest flight-ready version to date, L1, ADEO has a take-off weight of 10 kg at dimensions of 43 cm x 43 cm x 25 cm; in contrast to the smaller versions, this unit also requires its own power supply for motor-controlled deployment of the masts and sails. ADEO-L1 generally fits perfectly on satellites up to the 1,500 kilo class.

In the first quarter of next year, ADEO-L1 will be integrated onto a satellite of the Belgian company Redwire for its first test flight at the end of 2024/beginning of 2025 as part of a EU program, while the versions ADEO-N1 and ADEO-N2 have already passed their baptism of fire in space. Approaching the fiery finale is currently ADEO-N2, deployed in December 2022. Since then, it has already lowered its satellite from an orbital altitude of 510 km to 460 kilometers in only 12 months without the aid of any fuel or attitude control. Expected “arrival” in a completely burnt-up state: mid2025 – and thus even around five times faster than without sails and twice as fast as prescribed.

ADEO-L1 will master this path of final in-orbit verification just as safely, company boss Dr.-Ing. Ernst K. Pfeiffer is certain. As with the other versions, it will then go straight into series production for which the company has special production facilities at its Munich and Bucharest sites.