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Little levers for satellites: Cilia may precisely dock tiny spacecraft

In an era of satellite design now in its infancy, large and costly spacecraft are giving way to fleets of cheaper, miniaturized satellites. Some may be as small as a deck of cards. One challenge of this approach is designing means to subtly position the spacecraft during their frequent docking maneuvers with a mother ship to refuel or transfer data.

John W. Suh of Xerox Palo Alto (Calif.) Research Center and his colleagues may have come up with a solution. They've demonstrated that artificial whiskers, or cilia, which could be mounted on a mother satellite, are strong and precise enough to move a companion vehicle with great finesse.

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