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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The nudge delivered by a single photon is minuscule, so a solar sail must be large in order to intercept as much light as possible.
Prof Eastwood explained: "There's talk about how we could use a solar sail to position a satellite over the poles of the earth.
Lasers would help propel solar sails, says Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College who also sits on the Breakthrough board.
The payloads on the satellites Falcon Heavy is putting into orbit include an atomic clock NASA is testing for space navigation, another testing new telescope technologies, and a solar sail project part-funded by the Planetary Society, a non-profit organisation headed by Bill Nye, "The Science Guy" on television presentations.
For GOES I-M, a rotating solar array supplied power and a long solar sail boom balanced the craft.
Several other solar sail projects are making progress and the information from these early versions should enable the technology to become more common in the future.
Solar sail is a new type of spacecraft that produces propulsion by a large area of light film that reflects solar photons, where the power source is natural solar energy, without consuming the chemical fuel.
"The Japanese have already proven that we can fly stuff with a solar sail. In 2010, they sent up an experiment called IKAROS, Interplanetary Kite-raft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun.
Solar sail performance is significantly affected by four main factors: sail surface/mass ratio; optical properties of the sail film; mechanical properties of the sail film; and sail geometry.