Engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA have been testing its Exo-Brake technology as a simple design that promises to help bring small payloads back through Earth’s atmosphere unharmed. An Exo-Brake is a tension-based, flexible braking device resembling a cross-parachute that deploys from the rear of a satellite to increase the drag. It is a de-orbit device that replaces the more complicated rocket-based systems that would normally be employed during the de-orbit phase of re-entry.
The Exo-Brake is almost 4 square feet in cross section, is made of Mylar, and is controlled by a hybrid system of mechanic struts and flexible cord. It will demonstrate a critical technology leading to the potential return of science payloads to Earth from the International Space Station through the deployment of small spacecraft. In addition to the goal of returning samples from the space station, the project seeks to develop building blocks for larger scale systems that might enable future small or nanosatellite missions to reach the surface of Mars and other planetary bodies in the solar system.