In case you don’t follow @AltiusSpace or @rocketrepreneur on Twitter, here are some test pictures of a 6U CubeSat-scale Magnetoshell Aerocapture (MAC) prototype built by MSNW and being tested in MSNW’s vacuum chamber in Redmond, WA. This is part of the ISS MAC CubeSat Demonstration SBIR effort we are supporting them on.
In these first two pictures, you can see see the plasma generator that creates the plasma for the MAC system. It’s pumping an Argon plasma into the vacuum chamber, but the MAC electromagnet coils aren’t on, so the plasma rapidly diffuses throughout the chamber.
In this second picture, the MAC electromagnet is turned on, capturing the plasma being produced by the plasma generator. This forms the plasma bubble around the CubeSat that can ionize atmospheric neutral gas particles that pass through the bubble, allowing them to in turn be captured by the magnet and momentum dumped into them from the spacecraft.
Now that the core MAC stuff is working, in Phase 1 of this SBIR we still have to work on thermal insulation to keep the heat from the Electromagnet coil from sauteing the rest of the CubeSat, and then redesign the rest of the CubeSat subsystems to fit into the 6U form factor, and MSNW will be further maturing the control and feed system for the MAC hardware. In Phase 2, if we’re selected, we would then do the detailed design, build the CubeSat, and perform the qualification tests needed to have it ready for deployment from ISS (preferably via our HatchBasket system if it is flying by then).