Two small Millennium Space Systems satellites are claimed to be demonstrating deployable tether technology that enables low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to return faster and more reliably to Earth.

This technology will help safely reduce the mounting problem of orbital debris congestion.

The two satellites, which are racing back to Earth after being successfully launched into low-Earth orbit last month, formed part of the DRAGRACER controlled flight experiment.

The company’s engineers and amateur satellite tracking community are monitoring these satellites.

Millennium Space Systems interim CEO Tom Russell said: “We all are striving to be good stewards of the space environment.

“DRAGRACER is part of our proactive support to being those good stewards. This experiment adds to the body of knowledge on a unique, yet credible, alternative solution to mitigate the orbital debris problem and it is applicable to all sizes and classes of LEO satellites.”

Millennium Space Systems launched the two DRAGRACER satellites atop a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle in New Zealand on 19 November.

One satellite, which is named as ALCHEMY, is equipped with a 70m Tethers Unlimited Terminator Tape that was unfurled in low-Earth orbit.

The tether expands the surface area of the spacecraft.

This satellite is expected to sink and burn up as it falls from the atmosphere in around 45 days.

The other satellite, called AUGURY, is the control for the scientific experiment.

AUGURY is expected to follow a natural decay trajectory of anywhere between five and seven-and-a-half years.

For the DRAGRACER mission, Boeing subsidiary Millennium Space Systems is collaborating with private aerospace company Tethers Unlimited, mission launch service provider TriSept, and Rocket Lab.

Tethers Unlimited founder and president Robert Hoyt said: “We are very excited and grateful for the opportunity to demonstrate our Terminator Tape as a cost-effective and low-mass solution for safe disposal of satellites at the end of their missions.”