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. LUVOIR mission). Magnetic levitation offers several advantages over classic ball bearings, such as the elimination of wear and friction, elimination of lubricant, longer life expectancy and 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. This project will be carried out with Adcole Maryland Aerospace Inc. and the objectives of the Phase I will be to prove both analytically and experimentally the ability of generating a stable levitating force on the rotor along 3 degrees of freedom, while showing enhanced isolating capabilities. The latter feature is a further improvement of the state of the art since having a critically damped system would mean that all the rotor natural modes are highly attenuated as well as the rotor imbalance disturbance. Phase II will develop the full 5-DoF magnetically levitated reaction wheel.
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.