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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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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108 views

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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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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56 views

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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111 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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132 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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Is there an orbit that follows the polar cusp?

What orbit would follow the polar cusp in the magnetosphere demonstrated in the picture below in red? What altitude would be needed to stay in the polar cusp following the Sun?
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172 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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152 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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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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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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298 views

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{...
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Did IKAROS wake up from its 5th hibernation in Winter 2015?

The IKAROS solar sail entered its fifth hibernation in spring 2015, with a planned wake up in winter 2015 (Northern Hemisphere). However, there seems to be no news since then regarding the mission ...
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156 views

Could e-sails provide safer space travel

E-sails (Electric Sails) deflect Solar wind protons to produce thrust, that's good protection for living things in a permanent centre module that produces and stores food and oxygen. I was thinking a ...
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234 views

Can you use a light sail to achieve a survivable landing anyplace in our solar system?

Current answers at the new question Can you launch a probe to the Moon using a laser propelled craft? points out getting to the moon is not the problem, landing on it is. This answer suggests that ...
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Is there software that allows me to experiment with solar sail parameters?

Is there any software that allows me to experiment with solar sail models? I want to try models of sails of different sizes, different positions around the Solar System, and different trajectories.
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Is it possible to launch a satellite into orbit with a solar sail and a weather balloon using the magnetic poles?

At the poles the solar wind directly impinges. Suppose we put a solar sail satellite in a weather balloon at one of the poles. When it reaches the maximum altitude (~50km) it opens the solar sail and ...
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684 views

Can a solar sail reduce the speed from 1-10% light speed to achieve a solar orbit?

If a spacecraft heading to Alpha Centauri at 10% light speed, given a close approach to the main star, would deploying large solar sails, just before entering the solar system, slow the spacecraft ...
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How would Solar Flares affect Solar Sail navigation?

As I understand, Solar Sail runs on dual energy: light pressure and solar wind. While the former is quite deterministic and rigidly following calculations, solar flares create huge bursts of solar ...
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276 views

A more accurate way of solar sail calculation?

From the Wikipedia article on solar sails: The force on a sail and the actual acceleration of the craft vary by the inverse square of distance from the Sun (unless extremely close to the Sun) This ...
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How do you slow down a solar sail?

From what I understand, a lot of the difficulty in using conventional rockets to move payloads to other planets is that the object needs to lose its velocity one way or another so it doesn't slam into ...
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Can an onboard laser propel a solar sail? [duplicate]

In doing some research with my son about solar sails, we stumbled on this article that claims (on page 3): You might be wondering what happens when the spacecraft finds itself far from sunlight. An ...
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Could the Hubble mirror be used to create a laser to propel solar sails?

Would a space based magnifying lens (such as Hubble) be more efficient than a space based parabolic mirror to propel solar sails?
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Can a solar sail craft change an orbit's inclination (from polar to equatorial)?

How much maneuvering can you do with a solar sail in space? Can you change your inclination (go from a polar orbit to an equatorial) in a single star system? Can this be done in a binary system?
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How big can solar sails be?

If you really, really, don't care about getting from one place in space to another quickly, a solar sail can be a good option. A solar sail is light (no pun intended) and requires no onboard fuel. At ...
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Is a manned craft powered by Solar Sail feasible from Earth Orbit to Lunar Orbit

Trying to ask a series of questions but I'm breaking up the overall point into easier "chunks" to not make the overall question too broad. Question 1: Designing a craft for transfer from Earth to ...
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Solar sail thrust calculation

In Space Mission Engineering: The new SMAD, page 555, section 18.7.2, the following thrust formula is given for a solar sail: $$F=\frac{2RSA}{c}\sin^2\theta=9.113\times10^{-6}\frac{RA}{D^2}\sin^2\...
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545 views

Visualization of non-Keplerian orbits for solar sails

I'm seeking a software which helps in the visualization of solar sail trajectories. If I'm not mistaken, the European Space Agency uses Celestia to render trajectories for the general public. I know ...
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Durability of solar sails. How big of a problem is high-energy proton flux?

When we think of solar sails, I guess we mostly think of using radiation pressure of our closest star to achieve thrust, gracefully leaning on it with a large area sail of incredibly light and thin ...
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280 views

Maintaining ideal curvature (flatness) of a solar sail

If a solar sail is to be of any use, it needs to be a rigid structure and maintain its ideal curvature and orientation, otherwise it would eventually fold-up over its center of mass like an umbrella ...
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Has a solar sail been used on an orbital mission?

The Wikipedia article on solar sails mentions that they could have a use in modyfing a spacecraft's orbit: Robert L. Forward pointed out that a solar sail could be used to modify the orbit of a ...
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How much would a solar sail's usefulness be reduced by a perforation?

If one was going to use a solar sail on a long-term space mission, it seems as though space debris would be very hard to avoid. If a solar sail was perforated by a piece of space debris, would its ...
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240 views

What is the most stable configuration for a centrifugal ship towed by a solar sail?

Solar sails are not fast and acceleration is not going to provide meaningful simulated gravity. For a long journey, spinning a ship to provided simulated gravity can provide health benefits. ...
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Can I derive a combined equation for velocity of solar sail?

In this article on The Planetary Society website, I read this about solar sails: At an acceleration rate of 1 millimeter per second per second (20 times greater than the expected acceleration for ...