Brit Liggett

Solar Space Satellite Will be Fueled Solely by the Sun's Rays!

by , 11/10/09
filed under: Solar Power

sustainable design, green design, solar satellite, lightsail, planetary society, light powered propulsion, transportation, space exploration, light sailing

For centuries sailors have used stars to navigate around the world. Now space-sailors might be able to use the stars to move through the universe — literally! Instead of cruising to Mars on a giant tank of oil, we could soon sail through space using just the energy from sunlight. The Planetary Society — a non-profit space exploration organization — just announced that in 2010 it will send a satellite dubbed LightSail-1 into space that will be propelled by solar sails. The mylar-winged vessel will carry not a drop of fuel (making it much lighter than contemporary space craft) and will be the first in a three part program that aims to prove that solar sailing is a viable technology

sustainable design, green design, solar satellite, lightsail, planetary society, light powered propulsion, transportation, space exploration, light sailing

The LightSail-1 is a solar sail propelled satellite that will travel through space using only the energy contained within the sun’s rays. To do this the craft features 4 triangle-shaped aluminized Mylar sails that are capable of capturing the momentum of light emitted by the sun. When the photons in these light rays hit the sails on the LightSail-1 they will transfer the momentum they carry to propel the craft into space, much like wind transfers momentum to the sails on a sailboat.

LightSail-1 will weigh about 11 pounds, and when its sails are opened they span 6 meters across. It consists of three small cubes – two cubes hold the sails and one that holds the controls and electronics. The solar sailing craft will stay pretty close to Earth, traveling only a few miles after being released 500 miles above the surface of the planet, but each consecutive mission will sail further into space.

Scientists think that the possibility of carrying a person on a LightSail craft is a long way off and will involve technology not yet developed — they estimate a human on board would necessitate sails about a mile wide — but the hope for the future is bright. The distance we can travel in space has always been limited by the ability of spacecraft to carry enough fuel, so a craft capable of moving using only the sun’s rays could send space travel into a non-oil dependent future and open up the realm of deep space exploration.

The Planetary Society is hoping to hitch a ride into space on an already planned mission with a US or Russian spacecraft at the end of next year. Being a pretty light load, it seems like an easy carpool request.

+ Planetary Society

Via New York Times

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3 Comments

  1. Solar Satellite Launche... December 9, 2010 at 11:59 am

    [...] Solar sail satellites have been taking the top headlines this year, with devices such as Lightsail-1 grabbing much of the attention. However, NASA has just become the first agency to launch an experimental micro-satellite from a larger, solar powered satellite. The NanoSail-D was recently ejected from the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite (FASTSAT) in order to show that NASA had the capability to deploy a small cubesat payload from an autonomous micro-satellite in space. NASA believes that this technology could eventually be used to clean up space debris. [...]

  2. krumtralla November 10, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    What’s with all the talk of oil? Spacecraft aren’t exactly fueled by petrol!

  3. modular buildings November 10, 2009 at 10:16 am

    What an excellent idea!

    The only problem i can see is that it will not be very resistant to debris.

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