Sunjammer solar sail. (Credit: L’Garde)

 

Credit: L’Garde

 

Sunjammer stowed and deployment configurations to scale. (Credit: L’Garde)

 

NASA Sunjammer Solar Sail Set for Launch Next Year

Posted by Doug Messier on February 26, 2013, at 5:47 am

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The concept of a huge, ultra-thin sail unfurling in space, using the pressure of sunlight to provide propellant-free transport, hovering and exploration capabilities, may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but a NASA research team developing the Technology Demonstration Mission known as Sunjammer (a.k.a., In-Space Demonstration of a Mission-Capable Solar Sail) intend to prove the viability and value of the technology in 2014.

Led by industry manufacturer L’Garde Inc. of Tustin, Calif., and including participation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Solar Sail Demonstration mission builds on two successful ground-deployment experiments led by L’Garde in 2005-2006 in a vacuum chamber at the Plum Brook Facility in Sandusky, Ohio, a research laboratory managed by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. It also leverages the successful deployment of the NanoSail-D sail, a 100-square-foot test article NASA launched to Earth orbit in early 2011 to validate sail deployment techniques.

During its own test flight, the new Solar Sail Demonstration mission — dubbed “Sunjammer” by its designers in honor of the 1964 Arthur C. Clarke story of the same name, in which he coined the term “solar sailing” — will deploy and operate a sail approximately 124 feet on a side. That’s almost 13,000 square feet, or a third of an acre — seven times larger than any solar sail tested in space to date. But when collapsed, it’s the size of a dishwasher and weighs just 70 pounds. Attached to a 175-pound disposable support module, the Sunjammer is easily packed into a secondary payload on a Falcon 9 rocket bound for low-Earth orbit.

Read more: NASA Sunjammer Solar Sail Set for Launch Next Year | Parabolic Arc.

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