Magma Space proposes to develop a novel semi-active magnetically levitated Reaction Wheel (RW) that will enable NASA’s next generation of high-performance scientific/observation missions (e.g. HabEx mission). Magnetic levitation offers several advantages over classic ball bearings, such as the elimination of wear and friction, the elimination of lubricant, the longer life expectancy and the lower generated micro-vibration noise. All these features would be crucial for the design of future missions for the exploration of our solar system. The proposed technology aims at overcoming some of the fundamental drawbacks that have considerably limited the use of magnetic bearings in space missions, such as the need to operate at cryogenic temperatures (if superconducting materials are used for the levitation) or the high power consumption (for active magnetic bearings). The proposed semi-active technology would be capable of generating stable magnetic levitation at room temperature and with low power consumption. Moreover, the electronic board does not require either sensors or a control algorithm to operate, thus considerably simplifying its integration on a spacecraft. The objectives of Phase II will be to develop a fully operating engineering model with the integrated 5-DoF magnetic bearing and electric motor. A full set of functional and environmental requirements will be provided and a thorough investigation of power consumption, micro-vibration signature and magnetic cleanliness will be carried out. Phase II will end at TRL 5.
The proposed technology will be crucial for NASA future missions requiring stability accuracy of less than 1 milli-arcsec, such as observation missions (e.g. HabEx and LUVOIR) or laser communication missions (e.g. DSOC flight demonstration by JPL). A low-power levitating technology could also enable the development of new flywheels for energy storage and continue the work on G2 flywheel by NASA GRC. These flywheels have the potential to substitute electric batteries and increase the life of a spacecraft dramatically.
Magnetic wheels could allow DoD imaging satellites to achieve spatial resolution below 1.5ft. With the enhancement in laser comm precision, a GEO laser relay system (like ESA EDRS) would help EPA and NOAA to accelerate responses in emergencies by instantly connecting LEO satellites and ground stations. Magnetic wheels would enable corporations to implement laser-based internet satellite networks.