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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47
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6answers
7k 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 (...
15
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2answers
692 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 ...
14
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1answer
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 ...
13
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2answers
739 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 ...
12
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3answers
768 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 ...
12
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2answers
2k 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 ...
11
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1answer
4k 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 ...
11
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4answers
4k 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 ...
10
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1answer
814 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 ...
10
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2answers
5k 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\...
10
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1answer
688 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 ...
9
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1answer
307 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 ...
9
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1answer
253 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 ...
8
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1answer
345 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 ...
8
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1answer
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 ...
8
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1answer
447 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?
8
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1answer
564 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 ...
7
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1answer
250 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{...
7
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1answer
182 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 ...
6
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1answer
563 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 ...
6
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1answer
683 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 ...
6
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1answer
256 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. ...
5
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1answer
137 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 ...
5
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1answer
161 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 ...
5
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2answers
256 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 ...
5
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1answer
232 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 ...
5
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2answers
198 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 ...
5
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1answer
233 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 ...
4
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3answers
617 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....
4
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2answers
2k 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?
4
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1answer
174 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 ...
4
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1answer
242 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 ...
4
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2answers
279 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.
4
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1answer
156 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 ...
4
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1answer
84 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 ...
4
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1answer
209 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 ...
3
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3answers
387 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?
3
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2answers
378 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 ...
3
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1answer
851 views

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?
3
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2answers
153 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 ...
3
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2answers
2k views

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 ...
3
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3answers
387 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 ...
3
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1answer
125 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 ...
3
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1answer
255 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 ...
3
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1answer
98 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....
3
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1answer
191 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 ...
3
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1answer
99 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,...
3
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0answers
36 views

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 ...
2
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1answer
231 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 ...
2
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2answers
316 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 ...