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Caging System for Drag-free Satellites

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Caging System for Drag-free Satellites
Next generation drag-free space systems will provide autonomous precision orbit determination, more accurately map the static and time varying components of Earth's mass distribution, aid in our understanding of the fundamental force of gravity, and ultimately open up a new window to our universe through the detection and observation of gravitational waves. At the heart of this technology is a gravitational reference sensor, which contains and shields a free-floating test mass from all non-gravitational forces. A caging mechanism is used to mechanically secure the test mass during launch and release it with a low relative velocity once the satellite reaches its designated orbit. The test mass dynamics during the uncaging process can’t be studied in a laboratory environment. We plan to use the parabolic flight opportunity to test the caging mechanism in a zero-g environment and acquire data to analyze the test mass dynamics. More »

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