# 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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### 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 (...
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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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### 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 ...
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### 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 ...
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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 ...
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### 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 ...
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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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### 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 ...
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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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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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### 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 ...