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 ")

The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...' - Jack Williamson, 1933.

Pent-Up NASA Scientists Simulate Life On Mars
'That gives it complete isolation.' - David H. Keller, 1932.

Dust Movement On The Moon, Saturn's Rings Solved
'...The dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.' - Hal Clement, 1956.

Axiom - The World's First Private Space Station?
'So Webb Foster had built his space laboratory... It was a great crystal sphere, a thousand feet in diameter.' - Nat Schachner, 1937.

 

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

Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'

When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'

LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'

Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'

Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'

Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'

The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'

Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'

Robot Strolls Field, Examines EVERY Plant
'The great machines that did the work ... required but a few dozen men to cultivate an entire county.'

Sweden Outlaws Drones
'An eye that could not only see, but fly, roam, travel at speeds and in directions to suit its operator...'

Wear Your Self-Powered Generator
'It's basically a micro-sandwich...'

TITAN-III Spider Robot Is WAY Too Quick (Video)
'My little friends can find you wherever you go!'

Bill Gates Suggests Tax On Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot that 'appears or pretends to be human' had to be compensated...'

Handle, New Wheeled Hopping Robot
'the hopper sprang thirty feet into the air...'

Matrix Sentinel Ancestor, The Pipe Inspector Robot From Krakow
Watch out, Keanu!

Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...'

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.