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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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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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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12 votes
1 answer
996 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 ...
Jeremy Friesner's user avatar
9 votes
3 answers
5k views

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?
Tom11's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
428 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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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51 votes
7 answers
9k views

Can you tack against the sun using a solar sail?

Solar sails are a great, inexpensive way to move out from the sun, if you’re not in a hurry. Ocean going ships are able to tack against the wind, and to move up wind. Could a solar sail gain inbound (...
James Jenkins's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
298 views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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12 votes
3 answers
7k views

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\...
ChrisR's user avatar
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6 votes
4 answers
1k views

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....
Muze's user avatar
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7 votes
1 answer
277 views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
148 views

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,...
uhoh's user avatar
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12 votes
4 answers
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Can solar sail prevent orbital decay?

I can imagine a satellite with a solar sail it rolls when on the night side of Earth, then unrolls near "afternoon", propelled on each past of its "sunset side" of travel. Would such system be a ...
SF.'s user avatar
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9 votes
1 answer
308 views

What is the closest to Earth you can expect lift from a solar sail?

There is no doubt that a solar sail can move you around the Solar system, and even interstellar, if you're not in a hurry. But it will not get you off the planet. Assuming your ship/satellite is in ...
James Jenkins's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
213 views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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7 votes
1 answer
966 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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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3 votes
0 answers
221 views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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14 votes
1 answer
5k views

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 ...
Bill's user avatar
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11 votes
4 answers
5k views

Laser propulsion possible?

Is it possible to get an impulse, if you shoot at a solar sails with lasers mounted on the spaceship? If so, why doesn't a laser create a force, if it fires/releases a photon? Is the impulse ...
Quonux's user avatar
  • 421
6 votes
1 answer
366 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 ...
Muze's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
351 views

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 ...
Ryan's user avatar
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4 votes
3 answers
758 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?
Muze's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
149 views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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2 votes
2 answers
137 views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
63 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 ...
germanio's user avatar
  • 145
1 vote
1 answer
144 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? ...
Muze's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
365 views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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25 votes
3 answers
5k views

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 ...
Quuxplusone's user avatar
14 votes
1 answer
5k views

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 ...
Vedant Chandra's user avatar
13 votes
2 answers
811 views

Once lightyears out of the solar system, could you expect to get feasible propulsion with a solar sail?

It's been said before that a solar sail could be used for solar and extrasolar missions - if you aren't in a hurry. However, as you can't spell solar sail without the solar part, I'm wondering if you ...
user avatar
11 votes
2 answers
3k views

Solar sail force calculation: Angle vector

In this Wikipedia article about solar sails, I read the following: The force on a sail and the actual acceleration of the craft vary by the inverse square of distance from the sun (unless close ...
Vedant Chandra's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
1k views

Is there any more information available on JWST's "aft momentum flap"

I gather that the James Web Space Telescope (JWST) has just deployed its "aft momentum flap". However I cannot find much other information. It is described as the "aft" momentum ...
Roger Wood's user avatar
  • 3,894
8 votes
1 answer
610 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 ...
ChrisR's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
1k views

To what extent could JWST continue to be useful after the propellant runs out?

I see a similar question answered, but this is perhaps more specific. There's a lot of description about the James Web Space Telescope (JWST) operation during its planned mission. But I gather JWST ...
Roger Wood's user avatar
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6 votes
2 answers
957 views

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 ...
John Davies's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
318 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. ...
James Jenkins's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
321 views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
5 votes
1 answer
151 views

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 ...
user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
182 views

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 ...
tdMJN6B2JtUe's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
554 views

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 ...
Magic Octopus Urn's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
288 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 ...
James Jenkins's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
263 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 ...
user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
105 views

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 ...
germanio's user avatar
  • 145
2 votes
1 answer
589 views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
2 votes
1 answer
339 views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
1 vote
1 answer
246 views

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,...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
1 vote
1 answer
1k 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 ...
John's user avatar
  • 363
1 vote
2 answers
254 views

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 ...
Muze's user avatar
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1 vote
3 answers
349 views

Could a framework of mirrors static in space above the Lunar south pole illuminate a moonbase there continuously?

Edit: For clarification of what I mean with "static in space above the Lunar south pole " please see this answer from @Tom Spilker or his answer to the question Orbits that allows ...
Cornelis's user avatar
  • 7,535
0 votes
1 answer
226 views

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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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