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SOAR [University of Manchester]

The SOAR (Satellite for Orbital Aerodynamics Research) is a 3U CubeSat mission by the University of Manchester designed to investigate the interaction between different materials and the atmospheric flow regime in Very Low Earth Orbits (VLEO) and to demonstrate aerodynamic attitude and orbit control manoeuvres.

Improving knowledge of the gas-surface interactions is important for the design of future satellites operating in lower altitude orbits and will enable the identification of materials which can minimise drag or improve aerodynamic control, a key aim of the Horizon 2020 DISCOVERER project.

Secondary objectives of the SOAR mission are to provide new in-situ measurements of the atmospheric density and composition and variation of the thermospheric wind velocity over the range of altitudes below approximately 400 km. SOAR will also demonstrate novel attitude and orbit control manoeuvres using the aerodynamic forces and torques which can be generated at these altitudes.

In order to achieve these objectives, SOAR features two payloads:

  • a set of steerable fins which provide the ability to expose different materials or surface finishes to the oncoming flow with varying angle of incidence whilst also providing variable geometry to investigate aerostability and aerodynamic control; and
  • an Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) with Time-of-Flight capability which enables accurate measurement of the in-situ flow composition, density, and thermospheric wind velocity.

Using precise orbit and attitude determination information and the measured atmospheric flow characteristics the drag and side-force experienced by the satellite in orbit can studied and estimates of the aerodynamic coefficients calculated.

Nation: UK
Type / Application: Technology
Operator: University of Manchester
Contractors: University of Manchester
Equipment: 4 steerable fins, INMS
Configuration: CubeSat (2U)
Power: Solar cells, batteries
Mass: 2 kg
Orbit: 400 km 400 km, 51.6 (typical)
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
SOAR 1998-067SL 03.06.2021 CCK LC-39A Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5) with Dragon CRS-22, iROSA 2B, iROSA 4B, RamSat