Technology for Modular Spacecraft
We envision incorporating flux pinning into an interface that allows spacecraft modules to lock together without physical contact. These modules might, for instance, form a sparse-aperture telescope without many of the challenges associated with traditional formation flight. My personal flux-pinning vision involves modular space stations that are held together by a flux-pinned "virtual structure" rather than tangible trusses.
In the near future, flux-pinned interfaces may prove useful for spacecraft docking applications. They would provide a high degree of passive stability and robustness, and a little more work could extend this application to passive self-assembly in orbit. Before I joined the lab, an undergraduate team demonstrated (YouTube movie) this concept with mock-up modules on an air table. (Notice how stiff the connection is - the modules act as if they are clamped together, yet they never come closer to one another than about 1 cm!)
Recent laboratory work involves developing air-levitated, nanosatellite-scale mockup vehicles to demonstrate flux-pinned assembly and reconfiguration in 3 degrees of freedom and microgravity "Vomit Comet" projects to demonstrate flux pinning spacecraft concepts in freefall.
You can read more about this and other research at www.spacecraftresearch.com
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