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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 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 [13].
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.
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."
"Solar sails 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.