NASA, Industry Partner Test 20-Meter Solar Sail System

Aug 03, 2005

NASA has reached a milestone in the testing of solar sails -- a unique propulsion technology that will use sunlight to propel vehicles through space. Engineers have successfully deployed a 20-meter solar sail system that uses an inflatable boom deployment design.

L'Garde, Inc. of Tustin, Calif., deployed the system at the Space Power Facility -- the world's largest space environment simulation chamber -- at NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. L'Garde is a technology development contractor for the In-Space Propulsion Technology Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., provided instrumentation and test support for the tests.

Red lights help illuminate the four, outstretched triangular sail quadrants in the chamber. The sail material is supported by an inflatable boom system designed to unfold and become rigid in the space environment. The sail and boom system is extended via remote control from a central stowage container about the size of a suitcase.

L'Garde began testing its sail system at Plum Brook in June. The test series lasted 30 days.

Solar sail technologies use energy from the Sun to power a spacecraft's journey through space. The technology bounces sunlight off giant, reflective sails made of lightweight material 40-to-100-times thinner than a piece of writing paper. The continuous sunlight pressure provides sufficient thrust to perform maneuvers, such as hovering at a fixed point in space or rotating the vehicle's plane of orbit. Such a maneuver would require a significant amount of propellant for conventional rocket systems.

Because the Sun provides the necessary propulsive energy, solar sails require no onboard propellant, thus increasing the range of mobility or the capability to hover at a fixed point for longer periods of time.

Solar sail technology was selected for development in August 2002 by NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Along with sail system design projects, the Marshall Center and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are collaborating to investigate the effects of the space environment on advanced solar sail materials. These are just three of a number of efforts undertaken by NASA Centers, industry and academia to develop solar sail technology.

Solar sail technology is being developed by the In-Space Propulsion Technology Program, managed by NASA's Science Mission Directorate and implemented by the In-Space Propulsion Technology Office at Marshall. The program's objective is to develop in-space propulsion technologies that can enable or benefit near- or mid-term NASA space science missions by significantly reducing cost, mass and travel times.

Copyright 2005 by Space Daily, Distributed by United Press International

Explore further: Comet Jacques makes a 'questionable' appearance

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sun sends more 'tsunami waves' to Voyager 1

Jul 08, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced a new "tsunami wave" from the sun as it sails through interstellar space. Such waves are what led scientists to the conclusion, in the fall of 2013, ...

The science that stumped Einstein

Jul 01, 2014

In 1908, the physics world woke up to a puzzle whose layers have continued to stump the greatest scientists of the century ever since. That year, Dutch physicist Kamerlingh Onnes cooled mercury down to -450° ...

First LDSD test flight a success

Jun 30, 2014

NASA representatives participated in a media teleconference this morning to discuss the June 28, 2014 near-space test flight of the agency's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), which occurred off the co ...

Tether solution for satellite de-orbiting and reentry

May 28, 2014

Satellite de-orbiting and re-entry is essential to halt the continuous increase in orbital space debris. The BETS project, which ends this month, is making waves with a new tether solution that is faster and more resistant ...

NASA's saucer-shaped craft preps for flight test

May 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project, a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle, has completed final assembly at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, ...

Space buffs hope to reawaken old NASA probe

May 07, 2014

When NASA launched a space-weather probe called ISEE-3 in 1978, Jimmy Carter was president, the Commodores' "Three Times a Lady" topped the charts and sci-fi fans had seen only one "Star Wars" movie: the ...

Recommended for you

Comet Jacques makes a 'questionable' appearance

3 minutes ago

What an awesome photo! Italian amateur astronomer Rolando Ligustri nailed it earlier today using a remote telescope in New Mexico and wide-field 4-inch (106 mm) refractor. Currently the brightest comet in ...

Image: Our flocculent neighbour, the spiral galaxy M33

12 minutes ago

The spiral galaxy M33, also known as the Triangulum Galaxy, is one of our closest cosmic neighbours, just three million light-years away. Home to some forty billion stars, it is the third largest in the ...

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

13 minutes ago

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

Having fun with the equation of time

23 minutes ago

If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

User comments : 0