May 28, 2024

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NASA wants to sail through space

NASA wants to sail through space

NASA plans to sail into space. I have developed a device called the Advanced Composite Solar Sail System that will make it easier for us to travel to space.

NASA's idea is that solar sailing will soon be possible. Solar sails use the pressure of sunlight to propel themselves. The sails are pointed toward the sun or trained to propel themselves. A reflective sail reflects photons, making it possible to carry out longer missions more easily and at a lower cost.

Advanced composite solar sail system

NASA He writes“The demonstration of the Advanced CubeSat 12U (12 module) composite solar sail system, designed by NanoAvionics, is used to test a new composite boom made of flexible polymer and carbon fiber materials that is stiffer and lighter than previous boom designs. The primary goal of the mission is to demonstrate the use of the boom The new model was successfully installed, but once deployed, the team also hopes to prove the sail's performance.

The solar sail still needs to be properly tested before a real spacecraft can be attached to it, let alone one with an actual crew. However, this would probably require more of this reflective tarpaulin: the scheme is 500 square metres. Not only are solar sails very different from regular sails, as they have to survive in the cold room and are reflective: they are also lightweight. This also requires a lightweight boom that can be folded, because such a sail is very large but must sometimes be able to avoid space debris or other objects. NASA has now created spikes that can become as small as a tape measure.

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Sailing with the sun

Solar sailing cannot be done anywhere. For this you need a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 1000 km above the Earth. It takes 25 minutes to test an 80 square meter solar sail. The total deployable boom is seven metres. NASA has pinned a lot of hope on this test, because it could dramatically change travel to Mars, for example. “The Sun will continue to burn for billions of years, so we have an unlimited source of propulsion. Instead of launching huge fuel tanks for future missions, we can launch larger sails that use the 'fuel' that is already available. We will have a demonstrated system that uses this abundant resource to take the next big steps in exploration and science.” ”

The advanced composite solar sail system will be launched aboard Rocket Lab's Electron rocket from New Zealand. That will happen later this month.

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