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Five steps to make your space mission sustainable

Assistant Professor Jaan Praks knows poor workmanship can be really expensive - especially in space
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Image: Veera Kortelainen

1. Think about the goal. Do you actually need a space mission to get what you need? Could you solve the scientific problem without going to space?

2. Use as small and light a spacecraft as possible. Additional mass in orbit carries more risk for other satellites. A smaller mass is also cheaper to launch.

3. Go as low as you can go. In low orbits, the atmospheric drag helps to remove spacecraft from space. Remember that small spacecraft can only be launched to orbits where they come down to our atmosphere in less than 25 years.

4. Build your spacecraft carefully and take time to test the software. Many small spacecraft in space don’t function properly because of poor workmanship―and just contribute to space debris.

5. Design with the end-of-life in mind. The satellite needs a brake that lowers the speed of the satellite and isolates batteries at the end of the mission. Remove your equipment from space as soon as your mission allows.

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