Large morphing spacecraft for flexible science missions

Borggrafe, Andreas and Heiligers, Jeannette and Ceriotti, Matteo and McInnes, Colin (2013) Large morphing spacecraft for flexible science missions. In: SET for Britain 2013, 2013-03-18 - 2013-03-18.

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Solar sail technology offers a new capability to enable fast, efficient and low cost science missions throughout the Solar system. Uniquely, solar sails exploit the flux of momentum transported by solar photons to generate a thrust force and thus do not rely on a propellant like conventional, chemical and electric thrusters. The mission duration is therefore only limited by the lifetime of the onboard subsystems and the integrity of the lightweight sail membrane. This makes a solar sail the ideal candidate for a wide range of space missions, including space weather forecasting and exploration of asteroids. However, the thrust from solar radiation pressure is limited to be always directed away from the Sun, and its magnitude follows an inverse square law with solar distance, making the sail less efficient at large distances from the Sun.