"The frictionless magnetic bearings employed in the flywheel energy storage subsystem give FACETS the ability to operate on-orbit for about twice as long as a satellite using chemical batteries," he explained.
The FACETS program's beginning dates back to the late 1980s and early 1990s with the Strategic Defense Initiative also referred to as Star Wars after the famous science fiction films.
Advancing from a space-based laser concept developed under the initiative, the advanced structures experiment conducted at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., was used by Air Force Research Laboratory to test control of large space structures.
In 1992, the initial experiments at Edwards Air Force Base ceased. Eventually, the dormant advanced structures experiment structure moved to the Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. By 1997, it would become the foundation for the FACETS concept.
"Putting mini-AMPSS together took about 8 months, and it was fun to build," said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jason Kent, FACETS deputy program manager.
"Our flywheels will use a power sharing system, working together to produce up to 10 kilowatts at 150 volts with an additional 2 kilowatts at 28 volts," he noted. "That's a lot of power, roughly equal to what it would take to operate about seven toasters in your kitchen."
FACETS has the potential to benefit the Space Radar system. Meeting the high power levels required when the radar is operational demands significant over-sizing of the chemical batteries, which can only deliver a limited amount of power in a given time.
Once the radar is inactive, the oversized batteries represent excess weight. On the other hand, flywheel systems can be designed to handle the very high peak power needs without the requirement of being oversized.
They are uniquely effective at providing sudden, large amounts of power, but are not a detriment during low power mission phases.
The net result is dramatically reduced combined energy storage and attitude control system weight.
"It is also important to note that flywheels are clean energy storage in comparison to chemical batteries that contain caustic and/or toxic materials," Fausz said.
"Once it is proven that flywheels can store and convert energy into electricity while simultaneously controlling satellite orientation, they will eliminate the need for heavy, chemical batteries on many satellite systems, thus significantly reducing spacecraft weight," he noted.