Just a quick note to share some exciting news: the first spacecraft to come out of my graduate research lab – Cornell University’s Space Systems Design Studio – launched with the SpaceX Falcon 1.1 debut yesterday. SpaceX says that the CUSat technology demonstrator vehicles deployed nominally. You can read more about the launch here. I did only a tiny bit of work for CUSat, but I know other students who did a lot more! Congrats to the CUSat team. It’s been a long wait.
The next launch out of my old stomping ground lab will be KickSat, going up on the next Falcon to carry supplies to the International Space Station.
5 thoughts on “First spacecraft from my graduate lab launched!”
I wonder if I could ask you a silly little question related to spacecraft and magnetism since you are an expert on both. Let’s say I have a 500kg balloon floating in the stratosphere at fixed altitude with solar cells collecting 10kw from the sun, then my computation shows that if this energy can be converted to horizontal magnetic propulsion by repelling against the earth’s magnetic field at 100% efficiency then it could reach escape velocity in about one month. This is possible because at this altitude the air resistance is quite small so it is almost like pushing at an air hockey which does not require much force to get it to speed up horizontally. I understand that the earth’s magnetic field is pretty weak so the 100% conversion efficiency assumption is most likely way too optimistic. My question for you here is that in reality how close to practicality is the design of this ‘spacecraft?’
Short answer: it’s surprising how plausible that idea could be, but it is still an enormous technological challenge and it’s not clear whether your idea would beat out a rocket launch given current capabilities.
I’d like to give you the long answer, but you will probably have to wait a couple days while I get my computer unpacked again…
I am certainly in no way suggesting that this design is more practical or easier than rocketry or any other space technology. It would be immensely fun to me just to be able to know that this design will work in principle.
By the way, my thinking is that this balloon should be launched from either the north or south pole of the earth and take a polar orbit for maximum propulsion efficiency. I thought that if it works well enough to reach escape velocity, and there appears to be no reason why it can’t reach all the way to the edge of the earth’s magnetosphere.
Very much looking forward to your long answer.