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Review of Solar Magnetic Sailing Configurations for Space Travel


A solar magnetic sailing spacecraft utilizes the interaction between solar wind and magnetic field that is generated by a loop of superconducting wire attached onboard of the spacecraft. The development of the working principle of solar magnetic sailing from MagSail to magnetospheric plasma propulsion and magneto-plasma-sail is reviewed and discussed to study their performance, focusing on its operation for interplanetary travel. The orbital dynamic of MagSail is elaborated to explore the probable trajectories of interest for space travel. Examples for MagSail interplanetary travel are discussed for insight and future continuing work.

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Fig. 1

(adapted from [19])

Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

(adapted from Funaki and Yamakawa [8, 11])

Fig. 6

(adapted from Slough [37])

Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9

(adapted from Ashida et al. [35])

Fig. 10
Fig. 11


B :

Magnetic field vector (T)

c :

Light speed (3 × 108 m/s)

C d :

Drag coefficient

δ :

Ion mean free path (m)

E :

Electric field vector (V/m)

e :

Elementary charge (1.6 × 10−19 C)

I coil :

Coil current (A)

I plasma :

Plasma current (A)

I sp :

Specific impulse (s)

J :

Current density (A/m2)

L :

Magnetospheric size (m)

m i :

Ion mass (kg)

m e :

Electron mass (kg)

M :

Magnetic moment (T m3)

μ 0 :

Magnetic permeability (1.26 × 10−6 H/m)

N :

Solar wind density (m−3)

r iL :

Ion Larmor radius at magnetopause (m)

r eL :

Electron Larmor radius at magnetopause (m)

R coil :

Coil radius (m)

R plasma :

Plasma current radius (m)

T :

Plasma temperature (K)

V :

Solar wind velocity (m/s)

v :

Particle velocity (m/s)

A :

Sail area

α :

Sail pitch angle

δ :

Sail clock angle

r :

Spacecraft’s radial distance to Sun

G :

Newton’s gravitational constant

M :

Mass of the Sun

μ :

Solar gravitational constant


Spacecraft’s mass

\( \hat{r} \) :

Spacecraft radial component

\( \hat{\theta } \) :

Spacecraft transverse component

\( \hat{\phi } \) :

Spacecraft normal component

γ :

Spacecraft angle

v θ :

Transverse component of solar sail velocity

t − t 0 :

Transfer time

r 0 :

Initial distance from Sun


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Correspondence to Harijono Djojodihardjo.

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Djojodihardjo, H. Review of Solar Magnetic Sailing Configurations for Space Travel. Adv. Astronaut. Sci. Technol. 1, 207–219 (2018).

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  • MagSail
  • Orbital analysis
  • Solar magnetic sailing
  • Space dynamics
  • Space travel