Spanish engineers and scientists are developing new propulsion system which promises to solve the growing problem of space debris. Researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid Carlos III, and Madrid Polytechnic University have patented a new technology of propulsion system for orbital satellites, which feature is no need to use any kind of fuel and any other consumables.
The system is represented in the form of a special conductive aluminum tape with a length of a few kilometers and a width of a few centimeters, which will move the companion-like tail. Scientists call it “space lead”.
When you run a lightweight and durable outer tape will be in a collapsed state. Once the satellite is released into orbit, the ribbon will unfold. When this happens, the tape will be able to convert electricity into thrust, or a thrust of electricity. The Spanish scientists behind the development say that it will be used in pairs.
The system itself is based on one of the features of the motion of electrons. The tape has a special coating with the property of high emission of electrons when exposed to sunlight and heat. These special properties allow it to serve two useful functions.
“This revolutionary technology, as it allows you to convert orbital energy into electrical energy and back without using any consumables,” commented head of development Gonzalo sánchez Arriaga of Madrid University Carlos III.
As soon as the satellite will lose altitude and start to approach the Ground, the tape will begin to convert the power generated by gravity, into energy for use by the spacecraft. Researchers believe that this technology may be useful for the International space station. Every year, the ISS has to burn quite a large amount of fuel to adjust its orbit. Tape, in turn, will be able to generate for the station additional electricity as soon as it will begin to decline. Then the energy can be used as a replacement fuel.
“With this tape, as well as energy, which provides solar panels of the ISS, the air resistance can be compensated without using fuel,” says Arriaga.
“Unlike currently used propulsion technology, our technology does not require a propellant, and uses the natural effects of the space environment such as the geomagnetic field, ionospheric plasma, and solar radiation”, — said the scientist.
From satellites with enough on-Board meals the tape will run in reverse order. It will use electricity to produce thrust for spacecraft. Especially useful it may be closer to the end of the working period of the latter. After all, so instead of having to leave the spacecraft in orbit in the form of another piece of trash still has the energy of the satellite will be manually sent to the Earth’s atmosphere, where it can safely burn.
The basis of all of the technology is an electrodynamic effect, the so-called resistance of Lorentz. The details are not going to go, but Spanish scientists say this effect can be seen, for example, when browsing for a magnet falling through the copper tube. The video can be viewed below.
Some space organizations have already expressed their interest in special electrobrushes tape. To a Spanish team of scientists called experts from USA, Japan and Europe. The next step for Spanish professionals will be the actual prototyping.
“The biggest challenge is the production, because the tape must have very specific optical and electron emission properties,” says Gonzalo sánchez Arriaga.
The Ministry of economy and industry of Spain has contributed to the Spanish team grant the development of necessary materials for the system. Scientists have also sent a proposal for mutually beneficial cooperation in the consortium of the European Commission for the development of scientific research and technology (FET – Open).
“Cooperation in the framework of the project FET-Open could be fundamental, as in its course we could collect and spend in future space missions testing the first fully functioning system, and to develop a set of additional tools required to change the orbit of spacecraft based on this technology,” said Sanchez Arriaga.