Eddy-Current Actuation Applications
As the pace of space exploration increases, spacecraft will need to complete more tasks that require physical interactions with resident space objects: inspection, on-orbit repair or repurposing, and docking, to name a few.
Force interaction between a spacecraft and any other object has always been inherently risky. At present, non-cooperative interactions – interactions not anticipated in the target’s design – require direct physical contact, either through linkages, wires, or simple grapplers. While these methods are effectual, they are risky: a grappler may apply excessive force and damage the target, or unanticipated dynamics of the target may result in a catastrophic collision. Actuators utilizing magnetic eddy currents offer a solution to this problem.
Eddy-current actuators could enable an inspection vehicle to maneuver near the ISS without fuel.