Taking out the space trash.

At the beginning of September 2019, an automated timer unit on the Prox-1 satellite propelled in late June 2019 by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s University Nanosatellite Program, enacted deployment of TUI’s Terminator Tape module, an affordable, lightweight solution for removing space debris from on orbit.

Now, Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) recently announced that it has successfully demonstrated the on-orbit operation of the Terminator Tape.

The Terminator Tape™ deorbit modules are minimized, lightweight modules that empower small satellites to comply with post-mission lifetime restrictions with an insignificant mass, volume, footprint, cost, and risk effects on your program.

Weighing less than two pounds and about the size of a notebook, the Terminator Tape is designed to attach to the exterior of a satellite.

When the satellite has completed its mission and is ready to be discarded, an electrical signal from either the satellite or an independent timer unit initiates the Terminator Tape, making it deploy a 230-foot long conductive tape from the satellite. This tape associates with the space environment to create a drag force on the satellite that brings down its orbit far more quickly than it would if it was just abandoned in orbit.

Dr. Rob Hoyt, TUI’s CEO, said, “Three months after launch, as planned, our timer unit commanded the Terminator Tape to deploy, and we can see from observations by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network that the satellite immediately began de-orbiting over twenty-four times faster.”

“So, instead of remaining in orbit for hundreds of years. Rapidly removing dead satellites in this manner will help to combat the growing space debris problem. This successful test proves that this lightweight and low-cost technology is an effective means for satellite programs to meet orbital debris mitigation requirements.”