(GIST OF SCIENCE REPORTER) Advanced Composite Solar Sail System

(GIST OF SCIENCE REPORTER) Advanced Composite Solar Sail System


Advanced Composite Solar Sail System

  • NASA successfully launched its Advanced Composite Solar Sail System spacecraft from New Zealand recently.

About Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3):

  • It is a NASA technology demonstration mission designed to characterize solar sail structures technologies for future small spacecraft to engage in deep space missions requiring long-duration, low-thrust propulsion.

  • Launched in 2024, ACS3 will deploy a sail about the size of a small apartment from a toaster oven-size spacecraft.

  • At its core, ACS3 is a CubeSat, a small satellite built to standardized dimensions.  It features four 7 m long deployable composite booms.

  • Just as a sailboat is powered by wind in a sail, solar sails employ the pressure of sunlight for propulsion, eliminating the need for conventional rocket propellant.

  • Space missions have demonstrated that small spacecraft can use solar sails to change their orbits, expanding their possible uses.

  • Future solar sail missions will need bigger sails and lighter materials to maximize their performance.

  • ACS3 uses lightweight carbon fiber sail booms instead of traditional metal booms.

  • This will be the first test of this technology in space.

What is solar sailing?

  • Light is made up of particles called photons. Photons don’t have mass, but they have momentum.

  • As sunlight reflects off a shiny solar sail, some of its momentum gets transferred, giving the sail a small push.

  • This push is slight but continuous and, over time, can impart more thrust to a spacecraft than traditional chemical rockets.

  • Solar sails can reach unique destinations that are difficult or impossible to access with other propulsion systems.

  • This may also be the best option for interstellar travel.



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Courtesy: Science Reporter