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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Apr 12, 2005 1:32:08 GMT -6
NASA MSFC to Begin Test of Solar Sail
Test on April 18th...
NASA engineers and their industry partners are preparing to test two 20-meter (66-feet) long solar sail propulsion system designs -- a critical milestone in development of a unique propulsion technology using the Sun's energy that could lead to future deep space missions.
The systems tests, scheduled for April through July, will be conducted at the NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio.
Drawing energy from the Sun, much the way the wind pushes sailboats across water, solar sail propulsion provides the "fuel" for a spacecraft to travel through space. The technology bounces a stream of solar energy particles, called photons, 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 and 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 in space for longer periods of time.
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Apr 13, 2005 20:24:13 GMT -6
Without researching it, I wonder what the preferred method of steering is? Is it like a regular sailboat mechanics, using a "rudder" of some sort...or altering a sail componant into and away from the solar wind?
It really would make future passengers astronauts or interpreted "Star Sailors".
Chicago Astronomer Joe Founder, Administrator and Chief Astronomer
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