Scientists have learned to control objects at a distance of 1 km: this achievement will affect the conquest of space
A research team from China is trying to create a device to manipulate orbital targets using magnetic force, reports SCMP.
In the Hollywood Star Wars universe, Jedi can use the Force to move objects without physical contact, a technique called Force Push or Force Pull.
This ability allows Jedi to levitate themselves or others, as well as manipulate objects in more complex ways, such as building structures or repairing equipment.
The magic of cinema inspired researchers from the National University of Defense Technology of China to make this fantasy a reality. Until recently, using magnetic force to control anything remotely was considered impractical. The strength of a magnetic field decreases rapidly as the distance between the source of the magnetic field and the object it affects increases.
But the Chinese team said they were up to the task.
With an effective range of up to 1 km, their propulsion device will be strong enough to stop or deflect a large piece of space debris from spinning toward a spacecraft or satellite within minutes, or to pull a small satellite toward a spacecraft for inspection or maintenance.
“Design and experimental verification of the prototype are already underway,” the team led by junior researcher Zhang Yuanwen said in the report.
How it works
Zhang and his colleagues said they had found a way to direct a magnetic force to a distant object.
The main component of the prototype is a magnetized coaxial gun, a device capable of generating waves of hot, electron-dense, high-energy gas.
The rings of this plasma contain free charged particles that move under the influence of electric and magnetic fields, reports “high-tech" The magnetic field created by the discharge current of the plasma ring induces a current in the plasma, which in turn generates a magnetic field directed opposite to the first magnetic field. The process is repeated until the magnetic field lines are “frozen” into the plasma, that is, the magnetic force can be transferred over a distance by the plasma ring.
According to the researchers, the prototype is capable of firing eight plasma rings at a target every second at a speed of 10 meters per second, which is 000 times the speed of sound.
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As soon as the rings approach the target, they begin to influence its movement with magnetic force.
Using plasma rings instead of robotic arms or other hand-held equipment for manipulation in space offers several advantages, according to Zhang's team.
The desired action does not require physical contact, reducing the risk of collisions and other accidents. The device is also more versatile and can be used on different types of space debris, as it does not require special attachment points or interfaces.
The magnetized gun's design is similar to the plasma thruster typically used on modern satellites, the researchers said.
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It consists of a system of coaxial electrodes. The inner electrode is a hollow tube, the outer electrode is a cylindrical shell surrounding the inner electrode. When high voltage is applied, the electrodes generate a discharge current. It ionizes the gas in the gap between the electrodes, creating a plasma ring that is accelerated by a magnetic field.
Thus, it is possible to combine the power device and the plasma engine into one system.
The discharge current of the plasma ring can be used to improve the performance of the plasma engine. The two technologies can complement each other when performing certain tasks. Such missions may include rendezvous and docking in space, formation flight, and adjusting the speed and trajectory of failed satellites.
The team also proposed using plasma rings to control the relative motion of the companion satellite to guide it toward the main satellite for recovery.
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