Optical control of solar sails using distributed reflectivity

Borggräfe, Andreas and Heiligers, Jeannette and Ceriotti, Matteo and McInnes, Colin R. (2014) Optical control of solar sails using distributed reflectivity. In: AIAA SciTech 2014, 2014-01-13 - 2014-01-17, Washington. (https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2014-0833)

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The dynamics of solar sails with a variable surface reflectivity distribution are investigated. When changing the reflectivity across the sail film, which can be achieved using electro-chromic coatings, the solar radiation pressure forces and torques across the sail film can be controlled without changing the attitude of the spacecraft relative to the Sun and without using mechanical systems. The paper presents two approaches. First, a continuous reflectivity distribution is presented to control the sail attitude under the influence of, for example, gravity gradient torques in Earth orbit. The second approach assumes discrete on/o reflectivity regions across the surface. Both concepts of `optical reconfiguration' of solar sails enable a more flexible steering of the spacecraft and minimize actuation effort.