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GeoSail: Exploring the megnetosphere using a low cost solar sail

Macdonald, M. and McInnes, C.R. and Alexander, D. and Sandman, A. (2006) GeoSail: Exploring the megnetosphere using a low cost solar sail. Acta Astronautica, 59 (8-11). pp. 757-767. ISSN 0094-5765

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Abstract

GeoSail is a small, low cost, innovative mission designed to exploit the versatility of solar sail propulsion for the exploration of magnetic reconnection and electron dynamics in the Earth's magnetotail. The GeoSail mission requires only a very low performance solar sail to precess the major axis of an otherwise inertially fixed orbit, thus maintaining payload alignment within the geomagnetic tail. This constant rotation enables a near continuous observation window with the opportunity to probe the rapid dynamic evolution of energetic particle distributions in this critical region of geospace. An end-to-end system design study has been concluded and the key performance requirements identified. The level of solar sail performance required for GeoSail is typical of that currently being discussed within Europe for a near-term technology demonstration mission. GeoSail is therefore capable of providing both technology validation within the cost restrictions of a SMART mission while also returning unique science data from a first solar sail mission.