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Launching the next generation of solar sail technology into space thanks to Rocket Lab

Launching the next generation of solar sail technology into space thanks to Rocket Lab

According to the current situation, NASA's Electron launch vehicle, which is NASA's next generation, could be launched at the end of April Solar sail technology Transports it into space. The so-called advanced composite solar sail system is actually a demonstration designed to test the support structure (boom) made of flexible polymer materials and carbon fiber with the help of a 12U CubeSat designed by NanoAvionics; The components produced in this way, according to the agency, are stronger and lighter than previous designs. The primary goal of the mission was to successfully demonstrate the new type of hull, but of course they also wanted to prove the sail's performance. In addition, a series of maneuvers suitable for course changes will be tested, and it is also planned to collect data for possible future missions carried out with larger sails.

“A solar sail requires a very large, stable, lightweight structure that can be folded compactly. The support rods of this sail are tubular, and can be compressed flat and rolled into a package as small as a tape measure, while offering all the advantages of composite materials. said Keats Wilkie, the mission's principal investigator.

NASA engineer Mariano Perez during the inspection. Source: NASA

Once the cubesat reaches its sun-synchronous orbit, operations will begin, and after about 25 minutes the solar sail will be fully deployed, which will be about 80 square meters in size. We will also be able to look back at the last event, since cameras installed on the satellite will record the events. Interestingly, according to NASA's description, a spacecraft with a large sail would be visible from Earth under the right lighting conditions: If the sail was fully extended and in the right direction, its reflective material would be as bright as Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

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