Introduction to solar sailing

  • Colin Robert McInnes
Part of the Astronomy and Planetary Sciences book series (PRAXIS)

Abstract

For all of its short history, practical spacecraft propulsion has been dominated by the unaltering principles of Newton’s third law. All forms of propulsion, from simple solid rocket motors to complex solar-electric ion drives, rely on a reaction mass which is accelerated into a high velocity jet by some exothermal or electromagnetic means. A unique and elegant form of propulsion which transcends this reliance on reaction mass is the solar sail. Since solar sails are not limited by a finite reaction mass they can provide continuous acceleration, limited only by the lifetime of the sail film in the space environment. Of course, solar sails must also obey Newton’s third law. However, solar sails gain momentum from an ambient source, namely photons, the quantum packets of energy of which Sunlight is composed.

Keywords

Mercury Torque Transportation Titan Expense 

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Further Reading

Historical interest

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Selected introductory papers

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Solar sailing books

  1. Polyakhova, E., Space Flight Using a Solar Sail — The Problems and the Prospects, Kosmicheskiy Polet Solnechnym Parusom, Moscow, 1986 [in Russian].Google Scholar
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  3. Clark, A.C. [ed.], Project Solar Sail, Penguin Group Books, New York, 1990.Google Scholar
  4. Wright, J.L., Space Sailing, Gordon & Breach Science Publishers, Philadelphia, 1992.Google Scholar
  5. Souza, D.M., Space Sailing, Lerner Publications Company, Minneapolis, 1994.Google Scholar

Solar sail internet sites

  1. http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~diedrich/solarsails/
  2. http://www.ec-lille.fr/~u3p/index.html

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin Robert McInnes
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Aerospace EngineeringUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowScotland

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