Nasa are planning to build a Star Trek-style tractor beam which is capable of moving objects in space. The space agency has teamed up with technology company Arx Pax, which builds Back To The Future-style hoverboards, for the new project.
The pair aim to build microsatellite capture devices that can manipulate and couple satellites from a distance using magnetic fields, instead of touching them. It's hoped that the technology would be able to repel orbiting junk that may threaten spacecraft or attract one satellite to another.
Luke Murchison, On-Orbit Autonomous Assembly from Nanosatellites Project Manager, NASA Langley Research Centre, told the Mail Online: "We continue to place a firm emphasis on innovation and collaboration. We're confident and excited about the possibilities this agreement proposes."
Arx Pax chief executive Greg Henderson told Fox News: "Likely uses for this technology include manipulating various types of objects at a distance without touching them or colliding with them. One example could be moving an object, like a satellite, or holding it stationary without physical contact."
"The collaboration is evolving and the project is a work in process," added Henderson. "We will share more information as we hit specific joint development milestones."
Using the very same technology the team hope to create a magnetic tethering device using tiny lightweight microsatellites called CubeSats – which measure just 10cm sq. Joined together, the CubeSats can help Nasa's ability to collect data in space.
Back To The Future
Former architect Henderson developed a hoverboard that floats in mid-air, just like that seen in 1980s classic film Back to the Future. Known as the Hendo Hoverboard, the technology uses "hover engines" emitting magnetic fields that push against each other when there is metal beneath them.
Henderson came up with the idea when he was researching building structures that can better withstand earthquakes. And he hopes that MFA technology could be used to protect people and structures in natural disasters using a system which can "decouple" an object or building from the earth before a disaster was to happen.