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AirWheel – A reaction wheel with Gas Bearings supplied with ultrasonic pumps



Organisational Unit
01 March 2024

Duration: 18 months


A common side effect of using reaction wheels on satellites, are the induced disturbances due to micro-vibrations. These vibrations are mainly due to the use of ball bearings in the reaction wheels. A concept for future low vibration wheels, are magnetically levitated reaction wheels. Current designs are however complex and require sophisticated controlling algorithms and electronics. Gas bearings allow the contact- and frictionless guidance of solid parts in relative motion. They are widely used for high-precision machinery, for example in the semiconductor industry, for medical applications or precision laboratory equipment. They are also used in the space industry for on-ground low disturbance testing, for example for the attitude control system and rendezvous and docking applications. Gas bearings are virtually free of wear and induce very low levels of noise. They have not found application in reaction wheels so far, because the pumps required for the pressurized gas are themselves large sources of vibration. Ultrasonic resonant gas pumps do not induce vibrations in the relevant frequencies and are therefore a viable solution for a reaction wheel application. In the past, the feasibility of the approach has been proven and a breadboard has been built and successfully tested. ( The goal of the proposed project shall be, to carry this technology to TRL4 and to build a demonstrator that is close to form and function of a later product.

Contract number
OSIP Idea Id
Related OSIP Campaign
Open Channel
Main application area
Generic for multiple space applications
AirWheel – A reaction wheel with Gas Bearings supplied with ultrasonic pumps