Talk about formation flying. Could CubeSats be used to demonstrate newly discovered non-contact assembly principles that might be used to build large equipment and satellites in space?
Dr. Mason Peck, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell and director of the Space Systems Design Studio, is, according to Centauri Dreams
investigating an unusual property of type II superconductors called magnetic flux pinning, which may provide an ideal technology for in-orbit self-assembly of modular spacecraft and satellite formations.
Tests have confirmed that objects can be "pinned" across a gap a few centimeters wide, but Peck would like to widen the gap "by a factor of 10 or 100."
This is where it gets interesting:
Cornell graduate student Joe Shoer hopes to launch a CubeSat demonstration of Peck’s non-contacting modular reconfigurable spacecraft design in a few years.
Guest blogging at Centauri Dreams, Larry Klaes of the Tau Zero Foundation also links to this Cornell site about modular reconfigurable spacecraft that may interest you.