A solar sail allows a spacecraft to use radiation pressure for propulsion, similar to the way wind propels a sailboat. The sails of such spacecraft are made out of enormous reflecting panels. The area of the panels is maximized to catch the largest number of incident photons, thus maximizing the momentum transfer from the incident radiation.

For such spacecraft to work, the force from the radiation pressure exerted by the photons must be greater than the gravitational attraction to the star emitting the photons. The critical parameter is the area density (mass per unit area) of the sail.

For such spacecraft to work, the force from the radiation pressure exerted by the photons must be greater than the gravitational attraction to the star emitting the photons. The critical parameter is the area density (mass per unit area) of the sail.