From: FINDS (Foundation for the Non-governmental Development of Space)
Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2000
The Foundation for the Non-governmental Development of Space (F.I.N.D.S.) announced it has reached agreement with MirCorp to fly a 7 kilometer-long electro-dynamic tether aboard the Mir space station in 2001. The experiment, dubbed ``FireFly,'' due to its visibility from the Earth in the night sky, will demonstrate a totally new way to help keep spacecraft in orbit that is clean, cheap, passive and doesn't disturb experiments or residents aboard a space facility without using expensive chemical rockets.
``F.I.N.D.S.' goal is not just to prove this concept and help lower the costs of operating in space, but to show that good science and engineering development work can be done faster, better and cheaper than is now considered normal in the space community,'' said F.I.N.D.S. Executive Director, Rick Tumlinson. ``The budget for developing the system was only $1.5 million, less than most paper studies commissioned by government entities.''
FireFly will use electricity generated by the station's solar panels, fed down a wire dangling below the station, to cause an interaction with the Earth's magnetic field. This should slowly and gently push the station higher over time, much the same way magnets repel each other when the same poles are aligned. It is being constructed by Tether Applications in San Diego, who is under contract with F.I.N.D.S to build and operate the device. When completed, it will be flown to Mir by MirCorp, the station's commercial operators, who are donating their resources, including an EVA to mount the tether's spool on the exterior of the Mir.
``Tether Applications has already received substantial export licensing authorization from the State Department in regard to FireFly, and has been advised recently by State that a final determination on export licensing can be expected in the near future,'' stated Tumlinson.
F.I.N.D.S., a private endowment which funds leading-edge research aimed at opening the space frontier to human settlement, hopes to share the information that it gathers from the FireFly project on its WEB page (FINDS-Space.org). The team hopes to interest NASA and the International Space Station (ISS) partners in using a similar tether on other large space platforms, where the belief is that it could save tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and improve research conditions for delicate microgravity experiments.
F.I.N.D.S. funds a wide range of science, engineering and education projects related to the opening of space for human settlement. Among these are the Mars Society's Devon Island experimental Mars Base, the WATCH search for killer asteroids, SETI, Carnegie Mellon University's Solar Sail project, and numerous conferences and meetings for those leading humanity into space.
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