Hypersonic ReEntry Deployable Glider Experiment (HEDGE); Finding an Effective Solution to Space Debris

Farias, Isaac, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Earle, Joshua, Department of Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Goyne, Christopher, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia

Hypersonic research is the study and development of technologies capable of flying five times the speed of sound. It encompasses areas of study such as aerodynamics, propulsion systems, material science, thermodynamics, and more. Hypersonic applications can be useful in fields such as defense systems, space exploration, and commercial aviation. Hypersonic technology has the potential to cut down travel times and provide strategic military advantages. Because of its benefits, the field of hypersonic research has become increasingly popular in recent history. However, hypersonic research is expensive, and often very difficult to obtain. It is challenging to mimic hypersonic conditions in a typical laboratory setting; therefore, limiting hypersonic advancements.
The technical portion of the paper discusses the program HEDGE. HEDGE stands for the Hypersonic ReEntry Deployable Glider Experiment. It’s an ongoing project looking to experiment with the feasibility of using CubeSat satellites as a cheaper source of hypersonic research while also providing undergraduate mechanical and aerospace engineering students at the University of Virginia experience working with hypersonic research. Students were put into different sub teams where they focused on specific components of the CubeSat satellite throughout the academic year. The HEDGE satellite is intended to be released in low earth orbit where it will stay in orbit for no more than a couple of weeks where it will then re-enter the atmosphere. Once the re-entering phase begins it will send back specific hypersonic data and it will continue to do so until it eventually burns up.
I participated in the Attitude Determines and Control Systems (ADACS) and orbits team. This team focused on the stability, orientation, and lifetime of the satellite. These are important to the success of HEDGE. Orbital lifetime is important because the duration of the mission matters when the only source of energy is coming from a small battery. Orientation is important for stability so that data can be transmitted effectively. Throughout the year, I focused on researching certain properties for our CubeSat to effectively determine the lifetime of the orbit with the use of the ANSYS Systems Tool Kit (STK). In addition, I also worked on determining at what inclination of the orbit would be most beneficial to mission goals.
Ever since the dawn of the Space Race, the presence of debris in the space environment has increased. As space travel becomes more accessible and more frequent, the total number of debris in orbit is only set to increase. With the rapid speeds at the debris orbit, it's only natural that they pose an alarming collision threat to future and ongoing missions. While space is voluminous, it is important to note that most satellites are within a two-thousand-kilometer orbit. It is crucial to understand the issue to find ways to prevent debris from limiting our ability to continue space use.
For the STS portion of the paper, I dive deeper into the topic of space debris. More specifically, I researched statistical data on the origin and amount of debris in orbit. I analyzed the actors and stakeholders involved in the issue through the use of actor-network theory (ANT) to get a more thorough understanding of their respective interests. In addition, I also did a comparative analysis with the tragedy of the commons to look at an instance where there was global collaboration to solve a problem. While looking at the space debris issue from these perspectives, I developed general guidance on how a feasible solution would look like.
Both the STS and technical portion of the paper are related in that they both dive into the topic of satellites and their impacts. The technical portion of the paper is an example of the benefits of what satellite technology can do. In this case, satellite technology has the potential to benefit hypersonic research more cost-effectively. Satellite technology benefits us in many other ways, however, such as with navigation and communication. Even with the benefits of satellites, the space debris impact looms large and can not be ignored if we want to keep reaping the benefits of satellite technology. In the case of HEDGE, as previously mentioned, reentry is crucial to the success of the mission; but, it is also important in the space debris cause. Failure to reenter the atmosphere would add to the space debris total. Overall, both topics analyze the impacts of artificial satellites from different perspectives.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Hypersonic, CubeSat, Satellite, Space Debris
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