Largest solar sail ever to fly in 2014

Largest solar sail ever to fly in 2014, by a NASA research team In-Space Demonstration of a Mission-Capable Solar Sail. An ultra-thin sail unfurling in space, using the pressure of sunlight to provide propellant-free transport, hovering and exploration capabilities.

Images © NASA

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.

Largest solar sail ever to fly in 2014

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 rocket bound for low-Earth orbit.

The sail will unfurl in space to catch the sunlight. During the flight experiment, researchers will test attitude controls and assess sail stability and their ability to trim. They also will execute a navigation sequence with mission-capable accuracy.

Sail Demonstration: Key Mission Facts

  • The L’Garde Technology Demonstration Mission solar sail will have seven times the area (1200m^2) of the largest sail ever flown before in space.
  • At just over 70 pounds, this solar sail demonstrator will weigh 10 times less than the largest sail ever flown in space.
  • The L’Garde solar sail will produce a maximum thrust of approximately 0.01 newton, which is roughly equivalent to the weight of a “pink packet” of artificial sweetener.
  • This solar sail demonstrator is truly propellantless — it will use control vanes for attitude control.

Largest solar sail ever to fly in 2014

source NASA