We are proposing a game-changing approach to enable distributed nanosatellite (nanosats) clusters. Our focus is on low cost propulsion, navigation, and power sharing. Each of these functions will be sharing the same basic technology. With a novel combination of Magnetometer, low-power small ElectroMagnets, and Resonant Inductive Coupling (MEMRIC), is an architecture for clustering several nanosats without the need of propellant-based propulsion systems to keep the satellites clustered or the need of GPS for relative position knowledge. Distributed clusters of satellites will allow a paradigm shift on how we think about and utilize science from Earth orbit, from multi-point Earth sensing to large aperture telescopes. The use of clusters will dramatically reduce the cost of such systems, while increasing the science obtained.
The innovation is the combination of magnetometers (M) for relative position sensing and navigation, low-power electromagnets (EM) for relative motion control (less than 1 meter) and resonant inductive coupling (RIC) for power sharing (MEMRIC). The combination of these three technologies enables low cost nanosat clustering and satellite fractionation. This is distinguished from current proposed uses of EM control, in that, other approaches are creating very large EM fields to control over large separation distances. Here we take advantage of fractionation to utilize small EM fields with a goal of very small separation distances.
Vision of Operation:
Each nanosat will have a magnetometer, electromagnets, and a RIC system. Starting with power off on all EM’s, one of the nanosats will pulse its EM. Each of the other nanosats’ magnetometer can detect magnitude and direction of that EM, and determine where that nanosat is located. Then the next nanosat pulses. Once all nanosats’ locations are determined, an incremental motion command is generated and an EM field is created by all nanosats to achieve this command. Included in the EM pulse will be information about the nanosats, such as its identification and power status. If low power status is indicated, the RIC systems will engage to charge the nanosat.More »
Reduced Cost/Increase Reliability: The use of heterogeneous and homogenous fractionations will enable the mass production of these nanosats which will reduce cost. Having a network of these clusters will give the robustness of the internet, thus increasing reliability.
Increased Frequency of Deployment: Nanosats’ small size allows for piggy backing on launches thus increasing the frequency of deployments. Using the ability to construct complex systems in space, the need to wait for an monolithic satellite to be built will be eliminated. Science collection can start with a partial set of clusters, and then grow over time.More »
|Organizations Performing Work||Role||Type||Location|
|Ames Research Center (ARC)||Lead Organization||NASA Center||Mountain View, CA|