Solar Sail

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Hundreds of space missions have been launched since the last lunar mission, including several deep space probes that have been sent to the edges of our solar system. However, our journeys to space have been limited by the power of chemical rocket engines?and the amount of rocket fuel that a spacecraft can carry. Today, the weight of a space shuttle at launch is approximately 95 percent fuel. What could we accomplish if we could reduce our need for so much fuel and the tanks that hold it?
International space agencies and some private corporations have proposed many methods of transportation that would allow us to go farther, but a manned space mission has yet to go beyond the moon. The most realistic of these space transportation options calls for the elimination of both rocket fuel and rocket engines -- replacing them with sails. Yes, that's right, sails.
Solar-sail mission analysis and design is currently performed assuming constant optical and mechanical properties of the thin metalized polymer films that are projected for solar sails. More realistically, however, these properties are likely to be affected by the damaging effects of the space environment. The standard solar-sail force models can therefore not be used to investigate the consequences of these effects on mission performance. The aim of this paper is to propose a new parametric model for describing the sail film's optical degradation with time. In particular, the sail film's optical coefficients are assumed to depend on its environmental history, that is, the radiation dose. Using the proposed model, the optimal control laws for degrading solar sails are derived using an indirect method and the effects of different degradation behaviors are investigated for an example interplanetary mission.

Hundreds of space missions have been launched since the last lunar mission, including several deep space probes that have been sent to the edges of our solar system. However, our journeys to space have been limited by the power of chemical rocket engines?and the amount of rocket fuel that a spacecraft can carry. Today, the weight of a space shuttle at launch is approximately 95 percent fuel. What could we accomplish if we could reduce our need for so much fuel and the tanks that hold it?
International space agencies and some private corporations have proposed many methods of transportation that would allow us to go farther, but a manned space mission has yet to go beyond the moon. The most realistic of these space transportation options calls for the elimination of both rocket fuel and rocket engines -- replacing them with sails.
NASA?is one of the organizations that has been studying this amazing technology called?solar sails?that will use the sun's power to send us into deep space.

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