Small Payload Quick Return

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Small Payload Quick Return (SPQR) is a NASA Ames Research Center concept to return small payloads from orbit.[1]

The system uses an Exo-Brake, a parachute-like drag device for use in the low-pressure exosphere of Low Earth Orbit. This is the first part of a three part return system, operating from 350 to 100 km.[2]


The first test of the Exo-Brake system from orbit began with the launching of the TechEdSat-3p nano-satellite from the International Space Station on November 19, 2013.[3]

TechEdSat-4 is expected to test an Exo-Brake with variable drag in 2014.[3]

TechEdSat-3p took over 60 days to deorbit, while TechEdSat-4 reentered in about 30 days.[4]:Fig 3

A newer Exo-Brake system was tested on TechEdSat-5, deployed from the ISS in 2017.[5] It is a flexible cross shape that can be warped for steering during reentry.[5]

SOAREX Flights[edit]

Several investigations related to the SPQR programs and TechEdSat have been flown on Sub-Orbital Aerodynamic Re-entry Experiments (SOAREX) sounding rockets flights.

SOAREX-6 flew 27 November 2008 on an ATK Sub-orbital/Orion 50xl sounding rocket.

SOAREX-7 flew 28 May 2009 aboard a Terrier-Orion sounding rocket launched from Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) in Virginia. A TDRV (Tube Deployed Re-entry Vehicle) was successfully tested after the flight reached its apogee of 134 km.[6]

On SOAREX-8, which launched on a Terrier Black-Brant suborbital sounding rocket, a wireless sensor module, a camera, various communication devices, and a full Exo-Brake were tested.

On SOAREX-9, a wireless sensor module, a camera, and various communication devices were tested.[7]


  1. ^ Characterizing An Experimental Decelerator For Delivering Nano-Sat Payloads To Planetary Surfaces Kevin Ramus et al., U. of Idaho, [1]
  2. ^ The SPQR as an Option for Returning Payloads from the ISS after the Termination of STS Flights Marcus Murbach et al., NASA Ames Research Center, [2]
  3. ^ a b Exo-Brake Parachute Launched From International Space Station by Keith Cowling, SpaceRef, Nov 2013 [3]
  4. ^ "TechEdSat-4 (Technological and Educational Nanosatellite-4) - Satellite Missions - eoPortal Directory". Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  5. ^ a b "Exo-Brake Enables Safe Return for Small Spacecraft - Tech Briefs :: Aerospace & Defense Technology". Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  6. ^ "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 2016-12-29. Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  7. ^ Murbach, Marcus. "TechEdSat 5 / PhoneSat 5 (T5/P5) SmallSat Presentation 2016". Retrieved 9 September 2018.