This unique model would spend very little time in Earth's shadow and eccentricity correction is performed on every pass.

Can the angle of the hard flat solar sail or one big solar vane maintain an orbit from going periapsis as shown in the picture below? By keeping a more dynamic angle not just flipping from A to B periapsis caused by only solar sailing from one side of the Earth could be corrected with out propellant propulsion?

Will turning the sail sideways but slightly angled towards the sun (like a boat sail to wind except the solar wind is the wind and Earth's gravity is the gradient) to move sideways returning the solar satellite on a mirrored intentional elliptical orbit?

In another question listed below: As a alternative or secondary when the satellite nears the Earth the satellite could acts as a wing creating lift from the magnetosphere.

Can modified solar sail use Earth's atmospheric drag of for lift in an eccentric orbit?

Can a satellite work like a radiometer?

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  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Can solar sail prevent orbital decay? $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Jun 17, 2018 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ Long story short, at altitudes where solar sail won't act as airbrake, orbit doesn't really require stabilization by such cumbersome means. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Jun 17, 2018 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @SF well, some satellites have used the orientation of their solar panels as solar sails to reduce their station keeping cost, but from what I understand it's generally seen as not worth it. $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2018 at 1:52

1 Answer 1


Your question and drawing appear to somewhat mimic what the Planetary Society video LightSail 2 Animation also shows starting at 02:36. The difference is that the phasing and tilt is optimized in the video to maximize apoapsis raising; if you wanted to raise periapsis, or reduce drag-induced loss of periapsis, you'd have to tilt at an angle to produce a prograde component of thrust for the Sunward orientation of periapsis shown in your question.

So yes, orbital maneuvers can be performed by a solar sail.

Solar sails produce lift from sunlight, which is not related to the magnetosphere.

You can read a little more about LightSail 2 in the references linked in the question Will the Planetary Society's LightSail spacecraft's solar panels be articulated during each orbit? as well the answer there.

Lower your volume; the music is quite loud.


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