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‘Dragsail’ Kiwi firm agrees twin tie-ups with Aussie companies

A Kiwi company that uses sails to deorbit spacecraft has agreed two separate deals to collaborate with high-profile Australian space firms.

Frond Space Systems will work with both Sydney-based ANT61, which uses tech to revive dead satellites, and Queensland rocket manufacturer Gilmour.

The deal with Gilmour will see its “dragsail” system installed on Gilmour Space’s MMS-1 satellite mission, which is scheduled to launch next year from Queensland.

The system deploys a literal sail when a spacecraft is at the end of its life, increasing its drag by enlarging its surface area. This aids deorbiting by accelerating the spacecraft back down into the Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up.


Frond hopes the technology will help address the growing problem of space debris caused by dead satellites lingering in orbit.

Kody Cook, head of satellites at Gilmour, said, “The new five-year deorbit requirement introduced by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is a great step in the right direction for the responsible and sustainable use of the space environment.

“Products like the MICRO dragsail system developed by Frond Space will be critical for meeting these requirements.

“It’s also a core part of our strategy to support the growth of the trans-Tasman supply chain and start-up ecosystem as we continue to develop future platforms.”


The MOU with ANT61, meanwhile, will eventually see the two companies’ innovations physically integrated.

ANT61’s Beacon device is installed on its client’s satellites so it can communicate with the team on the ground in real time after launch.

It means if a satellite fails, Beacon will keep working, providing information on the root cause of the problem and allowing the team to improve their design.

It also significantly provides a backup communication system, allowing the operator to update software and recover from failure – effectively coming back from the dead.

It comes weeks after ANT61 launched its Beacon device for the first time in an event live-streamed to the National Space Industry Hub.

The unit blasted off from the Esrange Space Center in Sweden aboard the MAPHEUS 14 sounding rocket in a mission designed to test its durability in extreme space conditions.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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