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Supporting NASA's Science Mission Directorate, the In-Space Propulsion Technology (ISPT) Program is developing solar sail propulsion (SSP) for use in robotic science and exploration of the solar system. SSP will provide longer on-station operation, increased scientific payload mass fraction, and access to previously inaccessible orbits for multiple potential science missions. Two different 20-m solar sail systems were produced and successfully completed functional vacuum testing last year in NASA Glenn's Space Power Facility at Plum Brook Station, Ohio. The sails were designed and developed by ATK Space Systems and L'Garde, respectively. These sail systems consist of a central structure with four deployable booms that support the sails. These sail designs are robust enough for deployments in a one atmosphere, one gravity environment, and are scalable to much larger solar sails-perhaps as much as 150 m on a side. In addition, computation modeling and analytical simulations have been performed to assess the scalability of the technology to the large sizes (>150 m) required for first generation solar sail missions. Life and space environmental effects testing of sail and component materials are also nearly complete. This paper will summarize recent technology advancements in solar sails and their successful ambient and vacuum testing.




Johnson, L., Young, R. M., & Montgomery IV, E. E. (2007). Recent advances in solar sail propulsion systems at NASA. Acta Astronautica, 61(1–6), 376–382. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2007.01.047

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