HEDGE Hypersonic ReEntry Deployable Glider Experiment; Analyzing the Environmental Ethics of Space Commercialization

Rodriguez, Cristina, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Elliott, Travis, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Goyne, Chris, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia

The two research topics presented in this paper are closely related. The Hypersonic Glider CubeSat, the technical paper, focuses on the investigation of hypersonic applications in space science, specifically, using a CubeSat spacecraft. The research is based on a CubeSat hypersonic glider spacecraft, which can sustain hypersonic flight in the atmosphere and collect data before it decelerates and becomes non-functional. The STS investigation focuses on the environmental ethical attitudes toward the space’s commercialization.

Hypersonic represents a high-in-demand technology to be perfected on both space and earth applications, as it would represent a faster time response to emergencies and a new manner to conduct travel and tourism in shorter times. Through the technical project, the turbulent conditions of hypersonic flight will be captured at a low cost providing important and limited information to the aerospace industry. The purpose of the technical project’s mission is to assess the feasibility of using CubeSats in hypersonic flight experiments for sustained flight applications. The objectives of the mission focus on the ability of undergraduate students to use CubeSats to conduct hypersonic research in Extremely Low Earth Orbit (150 - 250 km). The fulfillment of these objectives will be used to gauge mission success. For my team, a Conceptual Design Review (CoDR) represented the final step, presenting specific candidates chosen for the CubeSat’s subsystem components. The project will advance to the Preliminary Design Review phase in the 2022-2023 year. The potential captured data this project may bring has considerable implications for military and commercial aircraft and spacecraft industries. As the progress of this technology continues, ethical considerations may raise from its development and usage of this technology. This concern motives further research about the effect of space applications on ethics, specifically in environmental ethics, for the STS topic.

The STS research focuses on the environmental ethics attitudes space commercialization possesses. The paper focuses firstly on introducing the motivation that several countries and industries have for space commercialization. These vary from national empowerment and economic gain from space tourism and space mining. Then, it introduces a multi-cultural analysis, focused on The United States and China, on space commercialization’s innovations and implementation, and the environmental ethical perspective the countries have. The Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) framework helps in providing a structure for analyzing the ethical dilemmas presented using the social groups involve in the study. The social groups identified as relevant for space commercialization were divided into three groups: the governmental sector, the private industries, and civilians. In conjunction, the two case studies prove that it exists a general definition of environmental ethics in both nations, but the manner space commercialization is approached depends on each nation, with the goal to benefit their national interest when applying this technology. This leads to a non-uniform structure of environmental legislation, applications, and involvement.

In conclusion, the technical topic and the STS research topic have shown the current interest in space technology innovation and the complexities it may bring to society. Hypersonic technology has been a popular theme in today’s societies and nations, as its potential benefits could change the commercial and military fields in a significant way. However, the damage these applications can produce to the Earth's environment is also questioned, as the benefit of future space innovations may bring further destruction to its habitat. Regardless, with the cooperation among nations and through the correct implementation of regulations, the environmental impact these applications may bring can be reduced or even solved, leading to a potential environmentally ethical technology. With the development of both the technological and social-technical projects, the future of hypersonic technologies and their respective environmental ethics associated with it will aid to define the total contribution these future technologies will have on humans’ growth and sustainability.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
CubeSat, Environmental Ethics, Social Construction of Technology, Capstone, Space Commercialization, Hypersonic ReEntry Deployable Glider

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering
Technical Advisor: Chris Goyne
STS Advisor: Travis Elliott
Technical Team Members: Brendan Angelotti, Samantha Castro, Margaret Che, Jonathan Cummins, Desmond DeVille, Michael Fogarty, Jashianette Fournier, Jaiman Ryan, Jansen Emma, Jensen James, Parker Johnson, Nicholas Lu, Adam Obedin, Eva Paleo, Josh Willoughby

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