Reflex Aerospace and HPS sign memorandum of understanding to prevent space debris

This Post in a nutshell
Reflex Aerospace and HPS agree to establish cooperation at IAC 2022 in Paris
Satellite builder Reflex Aerospace relies on ADEO dragsail from HPS
The aim is to de-orbit all satellites at the end of their lifetime, thus implementing sustainability in space

On September 21, 2022, satellite manufacturer Reflex Aerospace (Munich/Berlin) and aerospace company HPS (Munich) signed a memorandum of understanding to pave the way for the sustainable use of space by avoiding space debris. Reflex Aerospace has committed to removing all satellites from orbit at the end of their service life. For controlled de-orbiting (controlled burn-up in the Earth's atmosphere), they are to be equipped with the ADEO sail system from subsystem specialist HPS. This is intended to ensure safe and sustainable use of space for the foreseeable future. The two German space companies are thus following common goals: To put the European Commission's "Green Deal", ESA's "Zero Debris Initiative" and the USA's "National Orbital Debris Implementation Plan" into practice.

"We see a clear mandate to provide technical and ethical leadership here"

The memorandum of understanding was signed by the managing directors of both companies, Walter Ballheimer (Reflex Aerospace) and Dr. Ernst K. Pfeifer (HPS). Ballheimer's concern for sustainability in space is one he regularly promotes and is central to his company. After the signing, he said, "We know the satellite manufacturing business for a long time, and from a mere business perspective one can understand that some of our competitors hesitate to invest in sustainability, if that affects rentability. Our view is, however, that this is short sighted and will inevitably lead to a situation where space endeavours become incredibly risky due to the amount of debris in the low earth orbit. We don't want to wait for this scenario to materialize, instead, we see it as a clear mandate for us and our customers to assume factual and ethical leadership in this matter."

Visualisierung des Bremssegels ADEO von HPS an einem Satelliten im Erdorbit, wie es auch Reflex Aerospace einsetzen wird
Dragsail ADEO (click to start animation); © HPS High Performance Structure Systems GmbH

In an interview with Astrodrom back in December 2021, Ballheimer explained that he would rely on HPS's expertise for his own satellites. Their ADEO dragsail is available in three different versions and covers all possible shapes and sizes of satellites active in orbits up to 900 kilometers in altitude. ADEO thus makes its system available for more than 90 percent of all currently planned constellations. It is to be used for the first time in Reflex Aerospace's demonstration mission planned for mid-2024.

Success after more than 20 years

But the road to this point was not easy for HPS, as Ernst K. Pfeifer explained at the signing ceremony in Paris: "Every breakthrough is a highly emotional moment, and this one now is certainly one of the most important ones in the history of our company. We started developing large deployable sail subsystems, originally with partners for the purpose of solar sailing (i.e. DLR Institutes), back in the year 2000. It took over twenty years, uncountable hours of work done by the best engineers in the field, as well as sweat and tears when the project ran more than once into dangerous waters concerning its long-term financing. We are glad and thankful that over the decades we received so much support from people and institutions who never stopped believing in our final success."

He cites both DLR and ESA as key strategic investors. The cooperation with Reflex Aerospace justifies the value of all these efforts and shows that ADEO will go as a central instrument for safe and sustainable spaceflight. On the other hand, Reflex Aerospace's cooperation underlines its ambition to promote space sustainability and responsive space capabilities, adding value to its satellites and thus to its customers.

Header Image Credit: Reflex Aerospace
Written by M. Weissflog
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