Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pulsating "Space Hairs" Could Help Small Satellites Dock With Their Mother Ship

Date:
January 3, 2002
Source:
University Of Washington
Summary:
Beds of thousands of tiny pulsating artificial “hairs” can provide a precise method for steering small satellites to docking stations on larger vessels, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Washington.

Beds of thousands of tiny pulsating artificial “hairs” can provide a precise method for steering small satellites to docking stations on larger vessels, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Washington.

The technique is inspired by biology, patterned after the action of the small hairs, or cilia, that line the windpipe and keep it clear of mucus. It could come into wide use in future space missions as technicians begin to deploy swarms of “picosatellites” – spacecraft small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand – to do maintenance, repair and observation work for larger satellites or space stations, according to Karl Böhringer, assistant professor of electrical engineering and leader of the effort to adapt the technology for use in space.

“Such small satellites will have to dock frequently and quickly for refueling or to download data,” Böhringer said. “This appears to be a very quick, efficient way to accomplish that. In addition, the space cilia are lightweight and relatively low cost.”

The research is featured in the latest issue of the journal Smart Materials and Structures.

The microcilia were originally developed by Gregory Kovacs and John Suh at Stanford University with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Suh currently works for Xerox Corp. in California. Böhringer and his team’s research involves adapting the cilia for use in space.

In creating the devices, Suh deposited layers of a polymer on a flat silicon plate and then, using micromachining processes, carved out units, or cells, containing four cilia each. The cilia are just 0.5 millimeters (two hundreths of an inch) tall, and each cell resembles a diminutive four-leaf clover.

Each cilium contains a titanium-tungsten heating element. When at rest, the cilia curve up and away from the silicon plate, but when current is applied to the heating element the cilia are forced to flatten. By turning cilia facing the same direction on and off in sequence, Böhringer can prompt them to act like thousands of tiny fingers that move in pulsating waves to nudge objects in any of eight directions.

Böhringer, UW graduate student Mason Terry and recent graduate Joel Reiter tested the cilia’s potential using an air table to simulate the weak gravity of space and a small aluminum block as a picosatellite (a satellite weighing less than a kilogram, or a little more than two pounds). In experiments, the cilia arrays were able to easily and precisely maneuver the block. Böhringer calculates that a patch of cilia 50 centimeters (20 inches) across would be adequate to steer a 40-kilogram satellite.

The one downside, he said, was that the process used more electricity than he would have liked. However, he is confident that can be addressed with some design changes.

“We’ve shown that this is workable, which is the important thing,” he said. “Now we’ll just have to wait to see if this is the direction agencies like NASA and the Air Force want to go.”

Funding for the project was provided by the Air Force and the Universities Space Research Association.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Washington. "Pulsating "Space Hairs" Could Help Small Satellites Dock With Their Mother Ship." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 January 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020103083618.htm>.
University Of Washington. (2002, January 3). Pulsating "Space Hairs" Could Help Small Satellites Dock With Their Mother Ship. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020103083618.htm
University Of Washington. "Pulsating "Space Hairs" Could Help Small Satellites Dock With Their Mother Ship." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020103083618.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) — The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) — A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) — NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins