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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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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
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
15 votes
2 answers
760 views

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 ...
user avatar
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
  • 809
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
12 votes
4 answers
1k views

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
  • 55.1k
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
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
  • 6,180
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
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
10 votes
1 answer
412 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 ...
TildalWave's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
831 views

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 ...
TildalWave's user avatar
  • 76.1k
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
  • 613
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
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
624 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 ...
user avatar
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
  • 3,894
8 votes
1 answer
512 views

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?
Mellester's user avatar
  • 183
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
  • 6,180
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
  • 149k
7 votes
1 answer
1k views

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 ...
Alexinawe's user avatar
  • 610
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
  • 149k
7 votes
1 answer
407 views

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{...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
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
  • 1
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
  • 1
6 votes
3 answers
4k views

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
  • 149k
6 votes
1 answer
801 views

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 ...
HDE 226868's user avatar
  • 3,227
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
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
345 views

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 ...
Cornelis's user avatar
  • 7,535
5 votes
1 answer
192 views

Why do "Relativistic Light Sails Need to Billow"?

The University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science blogpost How to Design a Sail that Won’t Tear or Melt on an Interstellar Voyage links to two new Nano Letters papers: Matthew ...
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
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
2 answers
337 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 ...
Cornelis's user avatar
  • 7,535
5 votes
1 answer
322 views

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 ...
SF.'s user avatar
  • 55.1k
5 votes
1 answer
70 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 ...
BobTheAverage's user avatar
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
  • 51
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
  • 1
4 votes
2 answers
491 views

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 ...
Esdras Caleb's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
203 views

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 ...
SolarisRa's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
123 views

Solar Reflective Plasma Drive

I understand that solar sails have just recently been progressing to be of use. Could the solar sails be positioned to create a hyperbolic mirror to super heat a substance to produce propulsion along ...
Justintimeforfun's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
150 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
  • 149k
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
  • 149k
4 votes
1 answer
214 views

Solar Turbines on the moon

Related to other questions about power generation on the moon. URL's will be added shortly... Given that force is experienced by objects hit by sunlight, such as a solar sail, would a turbine of some ...
AnarchoEngineer's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
270 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 ...
ikrase's user avatar
  • 8,883
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
4 votes
2 answers
438 views

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.
RichS's user avatar
  • 141
4 votes
1 answer
220 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....
user34078's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
169 views

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 ...
Larkeith's user avatar
  • 141