NASA to use Space Age 'droid' satellites

July 11, 2006

NASA scientists say they are ready to test "smart" satellites that can fly in precision formation and are relatively inexpensive to make and operate.

David Miller, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Space Systems Laboratory, says such satellites might be used for such tasks as building giant space telescopes and closely monitoring Earth.

The shuttle Discovery last week delivered the second of three satellite test "droids" that are undergoing experiments at the International Space Station.

"I rented the first 'Star Wars' movie and showed (a) class the scene where Luke is practicing the use of the Force with a floating droid," Miller told the Christian Science Monitor. "I said: 'I want three of those. How do we start doing this?'"

The results came in the form of 9-pound spheres the size of bowling balls, each crammed with computers, sensors and thrusters that allow the satellites to maneuver individually and en masse with precision.

A third satellite is to arrive at the ISS in December.

The project is funded by NASA and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Who owns space? US asteroid-mining act is dangerous and potentially illegal

Related Stories

Image: NIRSpec on the James Webb Space Telescope

November 25, 2015

Europe's NIRSpec instrument will be launched in 2018 as part of the NASA–ESA James Webb Space Telescope. This week, in recognition of the UN International Year of Light, a NIRSpec model is among the cutting-edge optical ...

NASA's Operation IceBridge completes twin polar campaigns

November 24, 2015

NASA's Operation IceBridge, an airborne survey of polar ice, recently finalized two overlapping campaigns at both of Earth's poles. Down south, the mission observed a big drop in the height of two glaciers situated in the ...

Recommended for you

Earth might have hairy dark matter

November 23, 2015

The solar system might be a lot hairier than we thought. A new study publishing this week in the Astrophysical Journal by Gary Prézeau of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, proposes the existence of ...

The hottest white dwarf in the Galaxy

November 25, 2015

Astronomers at the Universities of Tübingen and Potsdam have identified the hottest white dwarf ever discovered in our Galaxy. With a temperature of 250,000 degrees Celsius, this dying star at the outskirts of the Milky ...

Scientists detect stellar streams around Magellanic Clouds

November 23, 2015

(—Astronomers from the University of Cambridge, U.K., have detected a number of narrow streams and diffuse debris clouds around two nearby irregular dwarf galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds. The research also ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.