2012.B.1.4 Preliminary Design of Small Satellites for Atmospheric Reentry


Derek Dalle (1) and Sara Spangelo (1)

  1. University of Michigan


B.1 – Interplanetary CubeSat Missions and Science


reentry, Venus, design, atmosphere


A properly designed satellite with a high ratio of surface area to mass may be able to enter an atmosphere without an extensive thermal protection system. In this paper we discuss a design based on a 3U CubeSat and simulate it entering the atmospheres of Venus, Earth, Mars, and Saturn’s moon Titan. The most important parameters for a reentry vehicle are ballistic coefficient and lift-to-drag ratio. Such a vehicle could provide sought-after data for planetary atmospheres, especially the upper atmospheres that are hard to study using radio occultation. This study introduces a low-cost architecture to obtain useful scientific data about upper atmospheres and reentry itself. Practical challenges associated with the design concept are also discussed.


  • Download slides in PDF format here
  • Low quality video available here


  • Download paper here

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