CubeSats Miniature Satellites With Mini-Thrusters

CubeSats are small, Rubik's Cube-sized satellites that can help researchers conduct near-Earth space observations. They can cost as little as $40,000 to deploy, if they piggyback onto an already-scheduled launch.


(CubeSats Rubik's cube-sized satellites)

Paulo Lozano, the H.N. Slater Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, is designing a tiny propulsion system that could allow the satellites, which weigh about a kilogram and are used for tasks that don’t require precise orbit control, to travel great distances and perform more serious tasks, such as searching for planets outside our solar system. The technology, which is based on the process of extracting and accelerating charged ions, or atoms that have gained or lost an electron...

About the size of a computer chip, the mini-thruster design also overcomes the size constraints of chemical propulsion and other forms of electric propulsion because it does not require a bulky chamber to burn (chemical) or extract ions from (electric) the propellant.

Lozano’s design relies on electrospraying, a physics process that uses electricity to extract positive and negative ions from a liquid salt that is created in a laboratory and serves as the system’s propellant. The liquid contains no solvent, such as water, and can be charged electrically with no heat involved. Whereas other electric propulsion systems charge the ions in a chamber on the satellite, the ionic liquid in Lozano’s design has already been charged on the ground, which is why his system doesn’t need a chamber.

“Eventually, you’ll run out of propellant, but that is the benefit of electric propulsion because it accelerates so fast that you don’t need a lot of it,” he said. “No other electric propulsion system would be so compact and efficient at the same time.”

These small satellites, able to maneuver autonomously and fly independently, remind me of the buzz droids shown in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.


(Kenobi's ship covered with buzz droids)

See also this article on Pico Satellites designed to work in teams.

From MIT via Next Big Future.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/9/2010)

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 ")

Interstellar Asteroid Visits Our Solar System
'This asteroid had whirled in from the cold of the interplanetary space...' - Ray Cummings, 1930.

UM Hall Thruster Breaks Records
Someday, we'll see an ion drive used to get to Mars.

Ancient Ocean On Ceres?
'We sailed gently forward, hull down to the asteroid's surface... A little sea was now beneath us.'

Lunatix Lunar Rover Will Accept YOUR Commands!
'The bulldozer moved through the lunar strip mine... ' - Niven and Pournelle, 1981.

 

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

China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?'

iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams
Doctor shortage? No problem, we'll just use the autodoc.

Slaughterbot AI KIller Quadcopter Drones
'The real border was defended by... a swarm of quasi-independent aerostats.'

Do We Really Want Backflipping Robots?
Also includes wonderful blooper reel.

RNA-Based Biocomputing Device
Living things can sense and analyze complex signals in living cells.

Seasteading Floating Cities
'It was a remarkable island, circular, about half a kilometer in diameter.'

Tesla Semi 'Electrotruck' Unveiled
Elon Musk unveils yet another technological marvel.

Watch What People Are Seeing Via Brain Scanning
'had managed to see through the other man's eyes as the other man, all unaware, washed their Zis limousine sixteen hundred meters away...'

Integrated Circuits Printed Right Onto Fabric!
'...a shirt that displayed email on its sleeve.

Interstellar Asteroid Visits Our Solar System
'This asteroid had whirled in from the cold of the interplanetary space...'

PRIMA Bionic Vision Restoration
'The VISOR... was a medical device used in the Federation to aid patients who have suffered loss of eyesight...'

Audi Traffic Jam Pilot Knows If You're Sleeping
'Even here, riding a garbage truck to eternity, the machine watched him...'

UM Hall Thruster Breaks Records
Someday, we'll see an ion drive used to get to Mars.

Ionity Ultra-fast Charging Station Network
'Recharge the batteries... in almost every town and village...'

VAuth Voice Security Wearable From University of Michigan
'Siri, I gave you a voice command...' 'Yes, but do I know you?'

Ubiquiti FrontRow Camera Records Your Life
Why be choosy? Just upload your whole life to the Internet, and be done with it.

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.