Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair

Kunning G. Xu

Committee Member

Jason T. Cassibry

Committee Member

James A. Parsons


Microspacecraft., Artificial satellites--Orbits., Lift (Aerodynamics)


Small satellites are becoming increasingly popular due to their low cost and ease of launch. One limitation that they possess, however, is their inability to house the large imaging equipment needed for detailed observation of the Earth’s surface from high altitudes. Operating these satellites at very low orbits in order to decrease the observation range is a possible solution to this issue. Satellites orbiting at altitudes under 150 km are subject to the effects of atmospheric drag which causes the satellite to de-orbit quickly; however, if there is enough atmosphere to cause significant drag, then there is also enough to generate significant lift which could be harnessed as a maneuvering tool for adjustments to orbital parameters such as altitude and inclination. This thesis presents the modeling of the aerodynamic effects of integrated lifting surfaces on 6U sized satellite orbits ranging from 100 km to 150km. The results show that while the lifting surfaces create additional drag, they are also generate sufficient lift force to reduce the effect of orbital altitude decay and the overall thrust impulse which would be needed to sustain the satellite’s orbit.



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