Solar Sail

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solar sail

[′sō·lər ′sāl]
(aerospace engineering)
A surface of a highly polished material upon which solar light radiation exerts a pressure. Also known as photon sail.

Solar Sail


(or photon sail), a proposed means of spacecraft propulsion. It consists of very thin opaque sheeting—for example, a metallized polymeric film—that is set up on the vehicle in space and is capable, over a rather long period of time, of imparting a substantial speed to the vehicle owing to the action of solar radiation on the sail (seeLIGHT PRESSURE). A limitation on the use of a solar sail is that it can move the spacecraft in only one direc tion: away from the sun. Moreover, the force exerted by the solar radiation on the sail is small and decreases in inverse proportion to the square of the distance from the sun. The solar sail may find application in interplanetary flights.

References in periodicals archive ?
Graduate students from the Netherlands' Delft Technical University will use microgravity in the ZARM drop tower in Bremen, Germany to test graphene for light sails.
We liked the metaphor of solar propulsion (think enlightenment through exposure to knowledge) combined with the fact that light sails never decelerate .
Our analysis shows that beams used for powering large light sails could yield parameters that are consistent with FRBs," the researchers wrote in the study.