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 ")

Subsurface Martian Ice Slabs Piece Of Cake For Miners
'One shy little fellow with bloodshot eyes of old-time drillman stood up. 'I'm an ice miner,' he said.' - Robert Heinlein, 1966.

I Want Massive Space Freighters!
Ah, the space freighters of old.

Our World Formed In A Bubble?
'The Worldcraft bubble glittered, catching the light...' - Philip K. Dick, 1953.

Will You Live To See EM Pulse Scattering By Ships Nearing Light Speed?
'...half a million kilometers away, the Stardrive went on.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1953.

 

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

GM Introduces Cruise AV With No Steering Wheel
'How about the steering wheel?' ... 'I do not need one.'

Subsurface Martian Ice Slabs Piece Of Cake For Miners
'One shy little fellow with bloodshot eyes of old-time drillman stood up. 'I'm an ice miner,' he said.'

LG Rollable Version Of Niven's Poster TV
'A television that unrolled like a poster.'

Multi-Robot Farming On Highly Sloped Land
High Plains, indeed.

Aeolus Robot Brings Jetson's Rosie Closer
Domestic duties, robotically performed.

Sony's New, Cuter Aibo Robot Puppy
Engineered to be adorable.

Earth-1 Transformer Gundam Car
Is it a Gundam? Or maybe a Transformer.

Self-Driving Domino's Pizza Car
Yes, but can it negotiate entry at your Burbclave?

I Want Massive Space Freighters!
Ah, the space freighters of old.

When Will The Feds Ban Human Drivers?
'The first laws came out forcing the old machines off the highways...'

Our World Formed In A Bubble?
'The Worldcraft bubble glittered, catching the light...'

Will You Live To See EM Pulse Scattering By Ships Nearing Light Speed?
'...half a million kilometers away, the Stardrive went on.'

Jabil Integrated Textile Heart Monitoring
'Della's first present was an imipolex sweatshirt called a heartshirt…'

Made In Space To Manufacture Optical Fiber In Orbit
'Mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

Dune Fans! Power Your Devices With Sweaty Shirts
Yet another power source from humans.

Orwell's Memory Hole Looms Larger Thanks To Nvidia
'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.'

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.