Scientists from the University of Carlos III (Madrid) have created and patented a new rocket system for satellites, which allows generating electricity and airborne thrust. This innovation has attracted interest in ESA.
The system is based on a thin aluminum tape with a length of several kilometers and a width of a couple of centimeters. Differs in the improved issue characteristics at reception of a sunlight and heat. The tape rolled up in the drum during the launch period is already unfolding in orbit.
Through electromagnetism, such a cable can generate energy passively as the height of the satellite decreases. Conversely, if there is available power for onboard use, the cable is activated to create an axial force that increases the orbital altitude. That is, there is a real opportunity to transform orbital energy into electrical energy and vice versa without the use of consumables.
The cable does not need a propellant and uses natural resources from outer space, such as the geomagnetic field, ionospheric plasma and solar radiation. Space ropes have been studied for decades and took part in 20 flights. The new contribution comes from a surprisingly simple design, in which two aluminum tapes are able to create power or movement of the device. You can also increase efficiency by using the photoelectric effect of ribbons exposed to sunlight.
The system guarantees useful power in orbit as the altitude decreases. Therefore, this technology is ideal for dealing with space debris. Also, the idea is interesting for the ISS. Now a huge amount of propellant is needed to increase the height of the station and compensate for the effect of atmospheric resistance. The cable eliminates the need to use a propellant.
Simplicity, passive work and lack of consumables provide us with a promising technology. The creators are planning to expand the patent for the European zone and begin to create small-scale prototypes. The main problem is the development of the cable itself. He will have to possess extremely specific optical and electron emission properties. Now the most promising project on this issue is FET-OPEN, but it still needs funding.