In-Space Demonstration Of A Mission-Capable Solar Sail
NASA’s Solar Sail Demonstration (the Sunjammer Project) might be launched in 2014, when it will send into orbit the largest solar sail yet built. Sunjammer is being built by L’Garde Inc. of Tustin, California in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Its principle is exactly the same as with nautical sailing, with the same maneuvers of tacking, luffing and running before the “wind.” The solar sailing spacecraft must be light enough to be pushed by sunlight, yet that can maintain its shape without collapsing. The main aim of the Sunjammer’s “In-Space Demonstration of a Mission-Capable Solar Sail” is to test the feasibility of solar sails. The Sunjammer will go into Earth orbit as a secondary payload on a Falcon 9 rocket; when in orbit, it will unfurl its sail and will go through its paces as the attitude controls, sail stability and trim are tested and a navigation sequence is executed. NASA hopes to use the Sunjammer technology for a wide range of missions, such as deployment of space weather systems to warn satellites of solar storms, and as a means of cleaning up space debris, hovering at high altitudes, and propelling deep space missions.