Please select your home edition
Edition
Southern Spars

Huge solar sail to cruise beyond the earth's orbit

by NASA/Sail-World Cruising on 11 Dec 2011
Solar sail - largest ever, by seven times .. .
Not long after the 'little solar sail that wouldn't give up', NanoSail-D, re-entered the Earth's atmosphere recently and burned up (see http://www.sail-world.com/CruisingAus/Nanosail,-solar-sailing-craft,-returns-to-Earth/91415!Sail-World_story), another solar sail is in the planning, but this time it will be seven times bigger and will go far beyond the Earth's orbit.

NASA has picked this giant solar sail design as one of the must-have technologies to help future space exploration, agency officials announced Monday.

While dedicated sailors may be delighted that sailing is at the forefront of space exploration, there might be some eyebrows raised at the price, given the generally parlous condition of Western economies. NASA plans to pump a total of $175 million into three demonstration missions with launches anticipated by 2015 or so.

The solar sail was again selected as part of NASA's Technology Demonstration Missions program, one of the three which seek to infuse high-impact tech into the agency's future space missions.

'These technology demonstration missions will improve our communications, navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities, enable future missions that could not otherwise be performed and build the technological capability of America's space industry,' said NASA chief technologist Bobby Braun in a statement.

After retiring its venerable space shuttle fleet last month, NASA is now transitioning to focus on reaching destinations in deeper space. President Obama, for example, has directed the space agency to get astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars by the mid-2030s.

Flying with a solar sail:
The solar sail demonstration mission will deploy and operate a sail seven times larger than any other one ever flown in space, researchers said.

That huge sail size makes this mission considerably different than small-sail projects like NASA's NanoSail-D, which was launched last year mostly as a proof of concept, officials said.

'This concept takes it much further than that,' James Reuther, director of the Crosscutting Capability Demonstrations division at NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist in Washington, told reporters Monday. 'It actually deploys a sail that's 38 meters by 38 meters (125 by 125 feet), which is big enough to actually enable a mission.'

The technology could thus help develop deep space missions that cruise through the cosmos without using any traditional propellant. It could also have other applications, officials said, such as helping set up systems to monitor space weather and clean up orbital debris.

One of its missions would be to park in a pseudo LaGrange point closer to the sun to double the current warning period for dangerous solar flares. Slated for launch in late 2014, the instruments aboard the solar sail craft would be using the sun's photon radiation to gently offset the corresponding pull of the sun's gravity.

The project will be led by principal investigator Nathan Barnes of L'Garde Inc. in Tustin, Calif.

Related Articles

Sailing in the Olympics beyond 2016 - A double Olympic medalist's view
Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. Gold and Bronze medalist and multiple world boardsailing/windsurfer champion, Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. A key driver is the signalled intention by the International Olympic Committee to select a basket of events that will be contested.
Posted on 29 Apr
From Olympic flag to Olympic Gold and maybe another
The Sydney Olympics was a Sailing double 470 Gold event for Australia. Having won the 420 World Championship in 2000, the feeder class to the 470, while still at school in Australia young Matt Belcher was given the honour of carrying the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Posted on 28 Apr
The Road to Rio now 99 days short
The Road to Rio 2016 still has a few curves, bumps and potholes for teams battling to win. The Road to Rio 2016 still has a few curves, bumps and potholes for teams battling to win in Hyeres, at some World championship events and Weymouth World Cup but for many crews: 'It's 106 miles to Chicago we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses.' Whoops wrong movie.
Posted on 28 Apr
America's Cup - Oracle Racing win in Court but with collateral damage
Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Mitchell focussed largely on the circumstances of the matter and introduced into the public arena some interesting documents to support his claims.
Posted on 23 Apr
An interview with Jake Beattie about the 2016 Race to Alaska
In 2014, Jake Beattie and a few friends envisioned the Race to Alaska. Now, it’s time this wild race’s second edition. In 2014, Jake Beattie-the executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, Washington, and a few friends hatched the bold idea of a human-powered race to Ketchikan, Alaska, took flight. They decided that their human-powered race would start in Port Townsend, Washington and run to Ketchikan, by way of the inside passage between Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
Posted on 14 Apr
Children of the Internet, Rio and Hong Kong
I have four daughters, the youngest, who in her mid 20's is a true child of the Internet. I have four daughters, the youngest, who in her mid 20's is a true child of the Internet. The kind of conversations I have with her run along these lines.... In the olden days we did not have television until I left school and they had a thing called print magazines, that reported events between two weeks and four months after they happened. And her sceptical response... Hoh! Daddy, Hoh!
Posted on 14 Apr
Go fast girls - 49er FX sailors Paris Henken and Helena Scutt
Paris Henken and Helena Scutt will be representing the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics, which will be their first Olympiad. American’s Paris Henken (20) and Helena Scutt (23) recently won a berth to represent the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the high-performance 49er FX skiff, a goal that the team has been working on for almost three years. While this is their first Games, writing them off as Olympic newbies would require ignoring their recent results and their strong teamwork.
Posted on 13 Apr
World Sailing Cup V3 - A Dead Rat in a Shoe or Spring Daffodils?
While a host of major sailing events go from strength to strength, the Sailing World Cup has very major issues. Last night my Irish better half was sitting beside me on the sofa watching an Australian version of the popular TV Cooking Program My Kitchen Rules on a tablet with her headphones while I was watching Diehard II for the seventeenth time (it’s a boy thing) on TV. She suddenly spluttered and laughed, took off her headphones and motioned for me to mute Diehard. (Seriously!!)
Posted on 9 Apr
Volvo Ocean Race appoints stadium racing pioneer as new CEO
Sail-World forecast the appointment of Mark Turner as Volvo Ocean Race CEO a month ago. We profiled Turner at that time. Sail-World forecast the appointment of Mark Turner as Volvo Ocean Race CEO a month ago. We profiled Turner at that time. Today his appointment has been confirmed.
Posted on 31 Mar
Large spectator fleet heading north for boat watching season
I’m absolutely not going to lay claim to the phrase, but it is insanely apt and hilarious all at the same time, however. I’m absolutely not going to lay claim to the phrase. It is insanely apt and hilarious, all at the same time, however. Well then, boat watching season is definitely upon us once more. The whales will soon be gathering again off the coast of Queensland to observe all manner of racing and cruising craft as they head North for a Winter in the sun.
Posted on 29 Mar
Southern Spars - 100Kilwell - 3T Clewring AC72