Tiny space engines would use Earths magnetic field to zip around the planetJune 6th, 2008 - 3:59 pm ICT by ANI
Washington, June 6 (ANI): NASA has funded the development of tiny space engines that would use Earths magnetic field instead of chemical propellants to zip around our planet.
According to a report in Discovery News, the device represents a new breed of satellites that could alter satellite physics and economies, with the idea being to create millions of cheap satellites the size of corn kernels to augment todays multi-million dollar, car-sized satellite armada.
Though a prototype of the device exploded while in orbit, the test wasnt a catastrophic failure, according to Mason Peck, a scientist at Cornell University and coauthor of a study on the satellite.
Since that recent trial, Peck and his colleagues at the University of Michigan and State University of New York, Binghamton, have successfully tested their propulsion system, which could speed satellites along at more than four and a half miles a second.
Peck and his colleagues argue this new kind of mini device could make satellite missions more affordable and feasible.
You could launch a million of these things and if only one of them reached the goal the mission would be a success, said Peck.
The propellant-less satellite idea works a lot like a TV. A gun at the back of the TV shoots out negatively charged electrons. As they speed towards the viewer, a magnet changes their direction.
On a planetary scale, the electron would be the satellite zooming around the magnet, in this case the Earth.
As the satellite zooms around the spinning Earth, it would experience a force, known as the Lorentz force, pushing it at an angle perpendicular to its direction. The satellite would steal a tiny bit of the Earths energy to propel it forward.
The Earth would essentially push the satellite along, said Peck.
To test their idea, the researchers put a test satellite into a vacuum chamber at SUNY Binghamton and then shot charged ions at the spacecraft, simulating conditions in outer space.
As the charged ions flowed around the test satellite, its charged particles were whipped off like wet paint off an aircraft, said Peck.
Just because it doesnt use chemical propellants doesnt mean the satellite is fuel-less. Radioactive material, such as Americium 241, which emits charged particles, or electricity from solar panels or a battery, would be necessary to maintain the satellites charge.
The only real test of a tiny satellite magnetic propulsion system will be an actual flight in outer space.
Peck and his colleagues hope to perform a Sputnik-style test in a few years, where a small radio beep from space would signal success. (ANI)
- Penny-sized thrusters developed to propel nanosats - Aug 19, 2012
- Fuel-free space tethers to manoeuvre spacecraft in orbit - Sep 04, 2010
- New 'rocket' can go to moon on 100 cc fuel - Mar 30, 2012
- NASA exploring ways to clean up space debris - Mar 12, 2012
- No connection between superstorms and Earth's magnetic fields: Experts - Feb 13, 2011
- 1 cm craft could give early warning of fierce space storms - Feb 06, 2010
- Better electric propulsion may boost satellite lifetimes - Oct 25, 2009
- Astronauts could face heart problems with deep-space travel - Apr 08, 2011
- NASA's bread-loaf-sized nanosatellite to study life in space - Nov 19, 2010
- New satellites can overcome glitch in Earth-Mars communication - Oct 17, 2009
- New concept may enhance Earth-Mars communication - Oct 17, 2009
- India's remote sensing satellite set for launch - Apr 23, 2012
- Darwin-inspired spacecraft engine with double life expectancy created - May 25, 2010
- Risat-1 catapults India into a select group of nations (Second Lead) - Apr 26, 2012
- Indian remote sensing satellite set for launch (Lead) - Apr 23, 2012
Tags: catastrophic failure, coauthor, corn kernels, cornell university, discovery news, dollar car, half miles, lorentz force, magnetic field, nasa, planetary scale, propellant, propellants, propulsion system, satellite missions, space engines, suny binghamton, test satellite, tiny space, vacuum chamber