Rag Tag Space Fleets Line Up With Magnetism

Space craft that need to fly in formation could use superconducting magnets rather than using reaction mass. Two groups of researchers are working on technology that could replace old-fashioned thrusters, which use jets of gas and Newton's Third Law.

This video shows how spacecraft with electromagnets can fly in formation.


(Spacecraft fly in formation with electromagnets)

The problem with using thrusters is that the reaction mass is ejected to provide the effect; spacecraft can carry only a limited amount of material into orbit. Once the reaction mass is gone, the craft is left without a means of maneuvering.

David Miller of MIT's Space Systems Laboratory is testing the idea using devices that float on a glass plate by blowing air down onto it to simulate the weightlessness of space. Watch this demonstration video.


(Lab demonstration shows how magnetism can orient spacecraft)

In spacecraft, arrays of solar cells would provide power for electromagnets.

This method is not without problems; strong magnetic fields could disrupt delicate electronic equipment. However, shielding can be used in most cases; also, small secondary electromagnets could be used to cancel the main field in small areas.

This technique could run into problems in Earth orbit; the Earth's powerful magnetic field would pull on the magnets, causing spacecraft to begin spinning. However, a group led by Shin-ichiro Sakai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) thinks this problem could be solved by switching the polarity of the magnets several times per minute, achieving a delicate balance.


(The original rag tag fleet from Battlestar Galactica's first season)

We all remember how fleets of spacecraft are shown "parked" in formation; this technology could provide a way for spacecraft to fly in formation without expending fuel needed for maneuvering.

Via Magnets help spacecraft stick together; thanks to Moira for pointing this item out and mentioning some sf connections.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/7/2008)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Unrolling The Filmy Materials Of Space Tech
'When unfolded and unrolled... it became a tough, gleaming film.' - Jack Vance, 1962.

Bake in Space Bake-Off... In Space!
'A joyous condition commenced for the cook in the electric kitchen...' - Otto Willi Gail, 1929.

Free-Floating Planet Capture Not Rare, Says Paper
'planets which had been pulled from their pathways ages ago by a passing star...' - Balmer and Wylie, 1932.

Spider Flyer Walker Space Suit For Mars Astronauts
'The eight thin metallic legs were pointed downwards...' - Charles Sheffield, 1979.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

TALOS Exoskeleton Development Proceeding
'Suited up, you look like a big steel gorilla...'

Autonomous Robots Navigate Like Rats
'Out of warrens in the wall, tiny robot mice darted.'

SINTEF Robot Cleans Solar Panels
'The window cleaners, with large padded feet...'

Pangorin Restaurant Service Robots
What'll you have? Jawa juice?

Drug Creates Real Melanin Tan
I've used them all my life...

Medical Drones Hover Like Angels Near You
'The death-reversal equipment is on its way...'

SkEye Amazing Israeli Gigapixel Drone
'An eye that could not only see, but fly...'

How Rude! DARPA Wants Robots To Behave More Like Threepio
'Do I know protocol? Why, it's my primary function.'

'Liquid Light' Flows Around Corners
Light as a superfluid.

Unrolling The Filmy Materials Of Space Tech
'When unfolded and unrolled... it became a tough, gleaming film.'

Buddy Companion Robot Your Bulbous Friend
'Nanny was built in the shape of a sphere, a large metal sphere, flattened on the bottom...'

Poli-X1 Prototype Bee Pollinator
Is there anything drones can't do?

Bake in Space Bake-Off... In Space!
'A joyous condition commenced for the cook in the electric kitchen...'

DeepMind AI Baffled By Homer Simpson, Needs Human Help
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off...'

Does Earth's Middle Mantle Hold Oceans Of Water?
Al Gore, you have no idea.

Vaccine Blocks Heroin High
'You're biochemically incapable of getting off...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.