Questions tagged [solar-sail]

Questions regarding a 'sail' that can be attached to spacecraft to harness the sun's radiation to propel a ship in one direction or another.

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169 views

How many existing satellites have a continuously varying orbit because of human design decisions?

In the space community, there is an assumption that changes to an Earth satellite's orbit are infrequent (other than those due to atmospheric drag). Are there any known satellites designed to ...
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46 views

What are the main challenges to boosting or driving smaller solar sails with a constellation of separate reflectors?

This is to continue expanding the idea of using smaller solar sails, but increasing the energy they receive from the Sun by having a constellation1 of satellites with mirrors + lenses. For context, I ...
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Is it possible to have smaller solar sails and increase the amount of energy they receive with a constellation of mirrors?

Since a solar sail needs to have a huge area to capture enough energy from the Sun, but also be thin to make it easier to move, its design and materials are a big engineering challenge. Is it possible ...
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How realistic is the 1 kg/km² solar sail in “Death's End”?

(This question has been migrated from the SciFi StackExchange.) From Cixin Liu's 2010 sci-fi novel Death's End (pages 68–69): "A radiation sail can be made very thin and light. Based on the ...
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Are solar sail spirals logarithmic? Can this be shown analytically or by dimensional analysis alone?

There are several questions and answers here about spiraling towards or away from the Sun using solar sails tilted by roughly 45 degrees to convert the sunlight's incoming radial momentum into ...
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Why did my vis-viva math solution get so close despite being wrong? Under what conditions would it have been a good approximation?

I tried to answer Equation for Velocity and distance from Sun of a solar sail powered spacecraft but I'm missing something. I set up a math solution and got about 0.4 year to reach zero velocity based ...
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Equation for Velocity and distance from Sun of a solar sail powered spacecraft

I have an interest in solar sails as a method of propulsion. I have thought of the following interesting question about the workings of solar sails, which I just don’t have the mathematical ability to ...
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52 views

Attitude and orbit detection systems for solar sails

When a solar sailing craft is successfully getting force from solar photon pressure, that force applies a small torque to the craft because the center of pressure is never perfectly aligned with the ...
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220 views

Why isn't “cylindrical alien derelict spacecraft” more common in theories of Oumuamua as an alien probe?

When the mysterious extrasolar object, named Oumuamua, was detected and characterized, the leading analysis of its signal strongly suggested that it was a long, cylindrical or cigar-shaped object. And ...
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Where will the DSCOVR mission Falcon 9 2nd stage rocket body end up?

This answer to Why would a mission to Sun-Earth L1 have an instantaneous launch window? suggests that this was quite a delta-v-intensive launch. It left the F9 2nd stage in a very high 17 day orbit ...
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Do a significant proportion of cubesats (or any at all) have articulated solar panels/sails which can be pointed at the Sun?

It appears that for early cubesats the solar panels were simply fixed flat to the sides of the spacecraft, and even deployable panels were not part of early cubesat designs. Have a significant number ...
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Would the Yarkovsky effect ever be faster than a solar sail from a 1 AU orbit to the Sun?

Previously I'd mistakenly asked Would the Poynting–Robertson effect ever be faster than a solar sail from a 1 AU orbit to the Sun? when I'd meant to ask about the Yarkovsky effect which can be much ...
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Why would photon pressure be needed to keep ParkinsonSAT Spinning?

This answer to Can a satellite work like a radiometer? says (in part): ...the US Naval Academy cubesat ParkinsonSAT was designed with four faces asymmetrical, with solar panels offset to one side ...
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Why put chromium on the back side of this JPL-designed solar sail?

This 2013 JPL presentation Solar System Escape Architecture for Revolutionary Science March 2013 Conference NIAC Phase 1: 2012-2013 by PI: Jeff Nosanov Co-Is: Dr. Daniel Grebow, Dr. Brian Trease, John ...
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Would the Poynting–Robertson effect ever be faster than a solar sail from a 1 AU orbit to the Sun?

In this answer to Do you need 0 km/s velocity to crash into the sun? I mention solar sails for retrograde thrust and the Poynting–Robertson as two ways an object could ever-so-slowly spiral into the ...
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Using a solar sail to concentrate sunlight at large distances

Space probes which travel to the outer planets usually use RTGs to provide power as photovoltaic cells are impractical at those distances from the Sun. Solar sail could be used to first propel the ...
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359 views

Influence of solar wind and radiation pressure on a sail

Solar wind is composed of a mixture of materials travelling between 250 and 750 km per second. Radiation pressure involves electromagnetic field travelling at light speed. If considering a sail in ...
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1answer
853 views

Can dust be in orbit around a spacecraft which orbits the Earth or Moon?

In the title above, Can dust be in orbit around a spacecraft which orbits the Earth or Moon? let's define "in orbit" to mean gravitationally bound to the spacecraft long enough to go around it a few ...
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141 views

calculating the terminal velocity of a theoretical solar sail when reaching a distance d where acceleration is insignificant

I am trying to calculate the terminal velocity of a solar sail starting at distance 1AU. I know that my sail will accelerate and its acceleration will be inversely proportional to the distance squared....
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Statites - Are they possible in anything but theory?

In this question someone mentioned the idea of a Statite, a satellite which is stationary above a planet without being in orbit, usually in an orientation which is not possible with an orbit. It seems ...
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Could a framework of mirrors static in space above the Lunar south pole illuminate a moonbase there continuously?

When near the south pole of our Moon a permanent human community is established to search for and produce water in the permanently shadowed regions there, it would be nice to have some light from ...
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Could a solar sail composed of smart glass stay near the L1 point of Venus?

From answers to this question i've learned that the Lagrangian L$_1$ point of Venus is not stable, despite the almost circular orbit of the planet and the fact that it has no moon. Nevertheless would ...
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Total delta-v expected from Lightsail-2's solar sail before end of mission, and why end it so soon?

While Bill Nye has recently gotten quite upset at us for some things (strong language for Bill Nye warning), in the video below he expresses heartfelt thanks to all members of the Planetary Society ...
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Does Lightsail-2 take significant advantage of the Oberth effect?

The cubesat Lightsail-2 has been deployed and has communicated with ground stations. See The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 Healthy as Mission Team Continues Spacecraft Checkouts In the near future,...
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Tacking a solar sail to increase duration of acceleration

Because the utility of a solar sail diminishes the further it travels away from the sun (max. distance ~50 AU), the longer it can stay in closer proximity to the sun the longer it can accelerate. Is ...
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Can impact lift produce greater than 1 lift to drag ratio?

At orbital velocity in low circular Earth's orbit, at an altitude where mean free path exceeds cross sectional area of a craft or wing. therefore aerodynamic lift becomes impossible (Consider ...
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How will JWST manage solar pressure effects to maintain attitude and station keep it's unstable orbit?

The James Webb Space Telescope presents a huge reflective cross-section to the Sun's photons, and this can generate both torque and thrust. How will JWST manage solar pressure effects to maintain ...
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How does lightsail 2 plan to raise its apogee

Lightsail 2 is supposed to be a demonstration flight for solar sail technology. They plan to demonstrate that they can raise the apogee of their satellite using only light pressure on their sail. But ...
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207 views

Could protons in the Sun's solar wind be used to create a photonic laser thruster for a spacecraft?

I have a conceptual idea for a photonic laser thruster for a spacecraft and I am wondering if this particular idea has already been thought of and whether or not it is capable of generating enough ...
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Effective range of a laser propelled solar sail

The ongoing Breakthrough Starshot program proposes the use of high powered lasers on Earth to be aimed at a solar sail with the intention of propelling it to the star Alpha Centauri. To be more ...
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133 views

Can a solar mirror increase an ion engine 's output?

Could an ideal size solar sail work as a parabolic mirror to increase the out put of an ion engine? Would the extra weight encumber the ion engine nullifying the increases sunlight on the ion engine? ...
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143 views

Can light sails be stopped (after 20 years)? What will happen after the 20 years (after their journey)?

At that time will they be destroyed? Or can they come back? Or will we simply cut the laser power? And if we can make the size of the craft big enough so that a person can be on-board (without ...
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263 views

Could the International Space Station be fitted with solar sails?

How much solar sail and vane surface area would be needed to replace the boosts needed to keep the ISS in orbit? Could this be done at a higher orbit minimizing atmospheric drag? What is the closest ...
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301 views

What is the optimal angle for a solar-sail deorbit towards the Sun when radial thrust is included?

In this answer there's a geometrical derivation of the optimal angle of a solar sail to deorbit a spacecraft into the Sun. The naive answer is 45° which would direct the reflected light directly ...
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Is there a solar sail design that can deploy and retract at will?

I know a mission to Venus was conducted using a solar sail -- however, once unfurled using rotation kinetic energy, it could not be retracted. Would retracting a solar sail cause uncontrollable ...
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What is the functional form for r(t) for a solar-sail deorbit into the Sun?

This answer describes a spacecraft in a heliocentric orbit using a solar sail to "deorbit" into the Sun by reflecting sunlight into roughly the prograde direction. In comments it was proposed that ...
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855 views

Is it possible to reach the Sun without expending any fuel/reaction mass?

Imagine that I'm designing a space probe, that will initially be placed into an Earth-like orbit around the Sun. My goal is to have the probe fly/fall into the Sun; it's allowed to take as much time ...
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278 views

What is the timespan for a block of Phobos to reach a low orbit around Mars with a solar sail?

Edit: Although this question has been marked as a duplicate of this one about solar sail thrust calculation, they are different because I ask about a solar sail that has an orbital trajectory and ...
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Would a flat superconductor create surface area to increase its diamagnetic field uni or bilaterally to propel in space? [closed]

Instead of using a standard solar sail material could the sail be built of diamagnetic material and sail faster? Is there a way to make a thin flat sail that both uses the dimagnetic properties of a ...
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At what size does a bigger solar sail stop increasing your acceleration?

Is there a point where the larger solar sail would not add more thrust? What is the most thrust a solar sail can produce? Can a solar sail be added to an ion engine and work better?
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Can a solar sail be added to an ion engine and work better?

Has there been a concept vehicle that uses both solar sails and ion engines? Does the added mass of each system increase or reduce the spacecrafts total delta V capabilities? Inspired by S.F. As S.F....
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Solar Sail Payloads

Seeing as solar panels have become more compact, reliable and sturdy; could we potentially build a collapsible solar-sail to "tow" things out of our solar system? I've seen a lot of questions tackling ...
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How will The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 Spacecraft's retroreflectors be used?

For more information and links on The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 and its corner cube retroreflectors, see the question Planetary Society's LightSail Spacecraft's corner cube reflectors; how large,...
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Can modified solar sail use Earth's atmosphere to correct an eccentric orbit?

A solar sail power satellite used create thrust as a while in orbit around Earth will gain eccentricity because it can only propel from on side of the Earth. When the orbit will become eccentric ...
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Maximum velocity achieved by solar sail

What is the maximum (theoretical) velocity that can be achieved by solar-sail technology? Can we get close to the speed of light with that?
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Thrust for solar sail equation derivation

In the new SMAD (Chapter 18 Space Mission Engineering and Analysis) they have the equation for thrust of a solar sail and a reduced version. Variables are described in this question. I would like to ...
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Planetary Society's LightSail Spacecraft's corner cube reflectors; how large, and corrected for aberration?

The Planetary Society's new 3U cubesat LightSail spacecraft (mentioned in this answer) has corner-cube retroreflectors on on the 10x10 cm +z end, facing directly away from the sail, which will be ...
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Will the Planetary Society's LightSail spacecraft's solar panels be articulated during each orbit?

The NYTimes article Review: ‘Bill Nye: Science Guy,’ a Portrait of a Fighter for Facts includes a link to the film's trailer on YouTube and a photo of Bill Nye with a model of a 3U cubesat attached to ...
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How effective are solar sails to deflect an asteroid?

This answer states that solar sails may deflect asteroids. I understand that the goal is to deflect an incoming asteroid enough to avoid collision. I assume painting the asteroid white may also ...
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Negative photon pressure? What is the physics behind this expression?

The Wikipedia article on Radiation Pressure gives an equation for the pressure on a perfect reflector produced by a beam of photons with an energy flux $E_f$ (in units of power/area) as $$P=\frac{...