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New technology could revolutionize satellite use

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Posted August 16, 2013

New UMD Tech Could Revolutionize Satellite Use

New technology being tested by the University of Maryland’s Space Power and Propulsion Laboratory (SPPL) on the International Space Station could revolutionize the capabilities of satellites and future spacecraft by extending their lifecycle through the use of a renewable power source.

Finite storage for propellants—a chemical used in the production of energy—is often the limiting factor on the number of times a satellite can be moved or repositioned in space. However, a new propulsion method that uses a renewable, onboard electromagnetic power source, and does not rely on propellants, could exponentially extend a satellite’s useful life span and provide greater scientific return on investment.

Ray Sedwick, associate professor of aerospace engineering at UMD, and his research team have been developing technology that could enable electromagneticformation flight (EMFF), which means using locally generated electromagnetic forcesto position satellites or spacecraft without relying on propellants. Magnetic forces and torques are generated by circulating electrical current through a coil attached to each vehicle which can be used to reorient the satellites relative to one another. Their research project is titled Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System, or RINGS.

RINGS was sent to the International Space Station on August 3 on a Japanese resupply spacecraft and is scheduled for four test sessions on the research station. Astronauts will unpack the equipment, integrate it into the test environment and run diagnostics. From there, RINGS will undergo three science research sessions where data will be collected and transmitted back to the ground for analysis.

 

Read more at: Phys.org

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