Innovative Solar Sail Propulsion System Could Soon Drive Spacecraft for Science Missions, NASA Projects | UAP

Light Sail.jpg

NASA says it cleared a “key technology milestone” last month that could help move the agency toward future use of an ambitious and economical technique for propelling spacecraft through deep space: solar sail technology.

Operating in a manner similar to how wind is reflected by a sailboat, solar sail propulsion relies on sunlight, specifically the pressure created by solar radiation, to propel spacecraft.

Conceptually, the technology has existed for decades. A notable early example includes its appearance in Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven’s 1974 novel, “The Mote in God’s Eye,” where a light-propelled spacecraft is employed by an extraterrestrial civilization. More recently, the idea was even put forward that the curiously shaped interstellar object ‘Oumuamua could have potentially represented a form of this technology, although most astronomers found this possibility unlikely.

Given its promise for future space missions, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate recently provided funding for solar sail technology to assist in reaching a technology readiness level able to facilitate proposals for its use on science missions.

As of this week, the space agency is now reporting the successful deployment of one of four solar sail quadrants during a technology demonstration on January 30 at the Colorado facility of its prime contractor, Redwire Corporation, which developed the sail’s deployment mechanisms and 100-foot-long booms. The sail’s membranes were developed by Huntsville, Alabama-based NeXolve.

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center technologist Les Johnson called the demonstration “a major last step” prior to the technology’s use in space missions. Johnson has worked with NASA on the development of solar sail technology for the last quarter century and says that now he hopes there will be bids for its use in forthcoming space science missions.

Artist’s concept of a Cosmos 1-type solar sail spaceship used for orbital… read more

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