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Unformatted text preview: 1 SOLAR SAIL PROPULSION: ENABLING NEW CAPABILITIES FOR HELIOPHYSICS L. Johnson 1 , R. Young 1 , D. Alhorn 1 , A. Heaton 1 , T. Vansant 2 , B. Campbell 2 , R. Pappa 3 , W. Keats 3 , P. C. Liewer 4 , D. Alexander 5 , J. Ayon 4 , G. Wawrzyniak 6 , R. Burton 7 , D. Carroll 7 , G. Matloff 8 , and R. Ya. Kezerashvili 8 1 NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL 2 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 3 NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA 4 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 5 Rice University, Houston, TX 6 Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 7 CU Aerospace, Champaign, IL 8 New York City College of Technology, CUNY, New York, NY ABSTRACT Solar sails can play a critical role in enabling solar and heliophysics missions. Solar sail technology within NASA is currently at 80% of TRL-6, suitable for an in-flight technology demonstration. It is conceivable that an initial demonstration could carry scientific payloads that, depending on the type of mission, are commensurate with the goals of the three study panels of the 2010 Heliophysics Survey. Follow-on solar sail missions, leveraging advances in solar sail technology to support Heliophysics Survey goals, would then be feasible. This white paper reports on a sampling of missions enabled by solar sails, the current state of the technology, and what funding is required to advance the current state of technology such that solar sails can enable these missions. INTRODUCTION Solar sail propulsion uses sunlight to propel vehicles through space by reflecting solar photons from a large (> 100 meters per side), mirror-like sail made of a lightweight, highly reflective material. The continuous photonic pressure provides propellantless thrust to perform a wide range of advanced maneuvers, such as to hover indefinitely at points in space, or conduct orbital plane changes more efficiently than conventional chemical propulsion. Eventually, a solar sail propulsion system could propel a space vehicle to tremendous speeds— theoretically much faster than any present-day propulsion system. Since the Sun supplies the necessary propulsive energy solar sails require no onboard propellant, thereby significantly increasing useful payload mass. Practical concepts for solar sailing have existed for approximately 100 years, beginning with Tsiolkovsky and Tsander in the 1920s. A team at JPL completed the first serious mission study in the late 1970s for a rendezvous with Halley’s Comet (Friedman, 1978). An effort by McInnes in the 1990s and the publication of his PhD dissertation as a textbook on solar sailing helped re-invigorate interest in solar sailing as a research topic (McInnes, 1999). In the early-to-mid 2000’s, NASA’s In-Space Propulsion Technology Project made substantial progress in the development of solar sail propulsion systems. Two different 20-m solar sail systems were produced and successfully completed functional vacuum testing in the Glenn Research Center’s (GRC’s) Space...
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