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Demonstration of a Solid-State Inflation Balloon Deorbiter

[+] Author Affiliations
Morgan Roddy, Haden Hodges, Larry Roe, Po-Hao Adam Huang

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

Paper No. IMECE2017-71998, pp. V010T13A026; 6 pages
  • ASME 2017 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 10: Micro- and Nano-Systems Engineering and Packaging
  • Tampa, Florida, USA, November 3–9, 2017
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5845-5
  • Copyright © 2017 by ASME


This paper updates on the recent development of the novel Solid State Inflation Balloon (SSIB), a simple, reliable, low-cost, non-propulsive deorbit mechanism for the full range of small satellites, defined by NASA as less than 180 kg. It aims to focus on the recent demonstration, for the first time, inflation of a ∼10 cm sized balloon in a vacuum chamber. Small satellites typically rely on aerodynamic drag to deorbit within the FAA’s 25 year requirements. The SSIB will enhance aerodynamic drag by inflating a balloon at the end-of-life of a satellite mission. This technology will provide a scalable and non-existing capability, low-cost deorbit, for applications in the full-range of smallsats, from CubeSats to MicroSats. The SSIB system is composed of three major components: a Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) Solid-State Gas Generator (SSGG) chip, a balloon structure made of thin film compatible with space environment (i.e. Mylar, Kapton, or Teflon), and a sub-system package suitable for spacecraft integration. The SSGG is composed of a 2D addressable array of sodium azide (NaN3) crystals, confined by Su-8 wells, on a glass substrate. Current versions include 2×2 and 8×8 arrays designed for a full range of small satellites. Under each well is a resistive heater and when heated to above 350 °C, the NaN3 spontaneously decomposes to generate N2 gas in time scales on the order of 10 milliseconds. Each well is designed with a typical volume of 10–15 m3 to 10−6 m3 of NaN3 (i.e. 1,500 μm × 1,500 μm × 150 μm on the larger end of the spectrum). The SSIB system is low power (∼1 W per well for less than 10 seconds) and have low mass (∼100 grams, where mass is dominated by the size of the required balloon). Initial simulations have shown that the SSIB with balloons of 1 m2 cross-section can deorbit small satellites from above 1000 km well within 25 years.

Copyright © 2017 by ASME



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