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Airbus Launch Detumbler to Address In-Orbit Debris

Airbus’ Detumbler. Credit: Airbus

Ibadan, 15 November 2023. – Airbus’ patented Detumbler device launched on Saturday, 11 November and will undergo tests in space on the mission in association with Exotrail and EnduroSat early in 2024. The Magnetic damping device aims to ensure satellites remain more stable to improve future active debris removal. Airbus developed the Detumbler in 2021, with support from the French Space Agency CNES under their Tech4SpaceCare initiative.

The Detumbler’s design is to prevent satellites at the end of their lives from tumbling, it is a magnetic damping device that attaches to a satellite. The Detumbler includes a central rotor wheel and magnets that interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. When the satellite is flying normally, the rotor acts like a compass following the magnetic field, but should the spacecraft begin to tumble, the rotor movement induces eddy currents acting like a friction torque, thus damping the motion.

Dead satellites, especially in low Earth orbit (LEO), often end up tumbling, which is natural due to orbital flight dynamics. Furthermore, future active debris removal missions will face a greater challenge if the spacecraft tumbles. As a result, the Airbus Detumbler – weighing in at around 100g – could be a useful tool for future missions to prevent satellites from tumbling after their end of life, making them easier to capture on debris-clearing missions.

The in-orbit demonstration of the Detumbler is potentially in early 2024 on a mission from Exotrail (SpaceVan), which will include the Exo-0 nanosatellite from EnduroSat. Furthermore, dedicated detumbling tests will take place to verify the ability of the Detumbler to dampen movement.

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