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.