Outpost’s successful flight tests could disrupt future of satellite operations with autonomous paragliders re-entry system in reusable satellites
Michael Vergalla, CTO of Outpost, presented a paper during a technical session at IACon regarding the findings of Outpost’s two successful flight tests on a breakthrough technology of an autonomous paraglider re-entry system to enable industry-leading payload Earth return capabilities from orbit. The tests, conducted in April 2022, are a huge milestone for Outpost in creating a technology that will disrupt the future of satellite operations.
The autonomous high altitude paraglider system enables Outpost to achieve precision landing accuracy of its satellite system and customer payloads. This is meaningful because all enterprise-class spacecraft experience a 100km or more error dispersion when entering the atmosphere, making conventional low-altitude deployment of parachutes incapable of a precise and pre-coordinated landing. “Nobody has flown a high-performance robotic paraglider from these altitudes anywhere in the world before,” says Outpost founder and CTO, Michael Vergalla. “These flight tests provide us with valuable insights on vehicle performance and control and contribute to our leading position in this novel technology development and application. We have the edge in understanding how this technology works in a new environment and in unpredictable weather.”
Outpost conducted two flight tests to 26 km and 21km respectively. The first test the system was brought to altitude and tested flight modes, environmental survival, and tracking. The second test released the payload under drogue and transitioned to gliding flight shortly after. The total distance from launch to landing was 181 km. The vehicle successfully navigated to its waypoints as it flew and made a soft landing along the flight path where it was recovered by the team. These flight tests close an important set of risk reduction measures to move forward towards Outposts first orbital flight missions and Earth return.