The second big challenge is the solar sail
. While the concept has been around for decades, it wasn't successfully deployed until 2010, when Japan's Ikaros spacecraft tested a sail 14 meters (46 feet) square during its mission around the sun.
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.
Mcinnes, "Near minimum-time trajectories for solar sails
," Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, vol.
"In the same vein as solar sails
, futurists have also thought about laser sails.
Wiedemann, "Ultralight deployable booms for solar sails
and other large gossamer structures in space," Acta Astronautica, vol.
Therefore, the characteristic acceleration of electric sails can be higher than that of solar sails
. Recent results show that electric sails can generate 1N thrust with only 100 kg propulsion system mass .
After a solar sail
is deployed, each successive orbit could boost the CubeSat into an ever-widening spiral trajectory that would ultimately achieve escape velocity.
For example, solar sails
have been studied and tested in the last decade [1-3].
It will deploy a 10 m-long tether to demonstrate electrostatic manoeuvring through the plasma flow, which could lead to electrostatic solar sails
for propellantless interplanetary travel.
* Solar sails
: You'd need "a sail that's about as big as Texas in surface area, weighing just a fraction of a gram per square meter."
are a good choice if you have time on your side," says NanoSail-D principal investigator Dean Alhorn.
All manner of experiments take place up there and the energy is generated by giant solar sails
. This 183-piece kit, when completed, is at 1:144 scale and has a trio of astronauts to complete the impressive replica.