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Space Tether For Satellite Navigation Sans Rocket Motors And Fuel

The microPET Propulsion System concept of operations.
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (ANI) May 08, 2007
Satellites of the future could navigate in space without expensive rocket motors and fuel. A private company is flying an innovative experiment in space, which they say, could lead to satellites not requiring rocket power while orbiting Earth. The premise is that a spacecraft flying in low-Earth orbit could use a tether to utilise the planet's naturally occurring magnetic field to power itself.

Like a wire moving through a magnetic field, the spacecraft would build up an electrical current while flying through the planet's naturally occurring magnetic field, and the push of the magnetic field against the tether's electrical current could be used to raise or lower an attached satellite's orbit, depending on the direction of the flow of the current.

Another option is to use a tether between two spacecraft, flinging one around the other to build up speed. Upon release, the built-up momentum could hurl a spacecraft into an orbit that could reach to the moon.

However, the first step for either of two processes is to design a strong enough string. Orbital debris and micrometeoroids pose one of the greatest challenges to tether technology, and at such speeds, even a tiny fleck of paint can sever a tether.

As of now, Washington-based Tethers Unlimited is testing a new design, which replaces a single string with a braided, three-part strand. According to company founder Robert Hoyt, so far, the experiment, which was launched two weeks ago aboard a Russian rocket, is proceeding well.

"We want to get our technology developed and flown in space. As a company, we want to get experience building, flying and operating spacecraft," said Hoyt.

The experiment consists of three tiny satellites that together are about the size of a loaf of bread. Once in orbit, the two main satellites, called Gadget and Ted, are separated. Gadget, the primary tether inspector, is working well, but so far, ground controllers have been unable to communicate with Ted, which contains the half-mile-long tether rolled up on a spool.

Engineers believe only a small part of the tether has unfurled, but Hoyt believes it is adequate for the experiment, expected to operate for up to six months.

According to Hoyt, the third satellite, Ralph, is primarily a dummy payload to anchor the end of the mass, though it has avionics equipment and a radio. It is scheduled to be activated soon; Discovery News quoted Hoyt as saying.

Source: ANI Copyright 2007

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Microwave Autoclave For Composite Structure Production Is A World First At DLR
Braunschweig, Germany (SPX) May 04, 2007
DLR's Institute for Lightweight Composite Structures and Adaptronics in Braunschweig has finished building the world's first microwave autoclave. After its upcoming release, it will be used to develop new production technologies for carbon fibre materials (CFK), a booming sector of the aerospace industry. The microwave autoclave for composite structures is a joint development between DLR and the companies Scholz Maschinenbau GmbH, and Fricke and Mallah Microwave Technology GmbH.

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