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We live in a great age of discovery.
We're learning so many things about our universe.
We're learning so many things about the planets, and so on.
But for that, we need to take big spacecraft
and look at things up close.
Nowadays, people-- especially universities--
are looking into launching really small spacecraft,
spacecraft as small as this little cube I have here.
So if you want to launch something like this,
it's cheap, but then it's very limited
what you can do with it.
So you need, for example, an engine
that can make these run from one place to another.
At MIT, that's specifically what we're working on.
We're trying to produce a propulsion system that we could
put in a little cube like this and make it move
the way a big satellite does.
We have built a magnetic levitation
system that levitates a small satellite inside a vacuum
chamber.
This vacuum chamber is used to simulate
all the aspects of space.
This magnetic levitation system works
by running a controller that fixes the position
of the satellite vertically.
This is done using an electromagnet and some magnets
attached to the satellite.
Once a satellite is floating inside this chamber,
the thrusters that are attached to this satellite
are going to be fired.
Afterwards, the motion is going to be analyzed,
and direct measurements of this thrust
are going to be calculated.
These measurements are important,
because they prepare the system for an actual flight.
So our thrusters are micromachines,
using exactly the same kind of tools
that are used in machine electronics-- microelectronics
components.
In this way, we can make them really, really small.
So the components inside the thruster
are just a few microns in size, and that
allow us to package everything in a very, very
compact structure.
Each one of these is able to move one of those cubes
in space the same way that a bigger engine can
move a bigger spacecraft, a bigger engine like that one
at my back.
So this is a very exciting kind of thing,
and hopefully it will help us to launch more missions
and make more discoveries in the years ahead.