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NASA's First Solar Sail NanoSail-D Deploys in Low-Earth Orbit
01.21.11
 
Illustration of NanoSail-D Artist concept of a solar sail in space. (NASA)
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Friday, Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. EST, engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., confirmed that the NanoSail-D nanosatellite deployed its 100-square-foot polymer sail in low-Earth orbit and is operating as planned. Actual deployment occurred on Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. EST and was confirmed today with beacon packets data received from NanoSail-D and additional ground-based satellite tracking assets. In addition, the NanoSail-D orbital parameter data set shows an appropriate change which is consistent with sail deployment.

"This is tremendous news and the first time NASA has deployed a solar sail in low-Earth orbit," said Dean Alhorn, NanoSail-D principal investigator and aerospace engineer at the Marshall Center. "To get to this point is an incredible accomplishment for our small team and I can't thank the amateur ham operator community enough for their help in tracking NanoSail-D. Their assistance was invaluable. In particular, the Marshall Amateur Radio Club was the very first to hear the radio beacon. It was exciting!"

NanoSail-D will continue to send out beacon signals until the onboard batteries are expended and can be found at 437.270 MHz. It can be tracked on the NanoSail-D dashboard at: http://nanosaild.engr.scu.edu/dashboard.htm.

It is estimated that NanoSail-D will remain in low-Earth orbit between 70 and 120 days, depending on atmospheric conditions. NanoSail-D is designed to demonstrate deployment of a compact solar sail boom technology. This research demonstration could lead to further advances of this alternative solar sail propulsion and the critical need for new de-orbit technologies. This ejection experiment also demonstrates a spacecraft’s ability, like the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, to eject a nano-satellite from a micro-satellite, while avoiding re-contact with the primary satellite.

"This is a significant accomplishment for both the FASTSAT and NanoSail-D projects. This accomplishment validates that we've met another of our primary mission objectives -- successfully ejecting a nanosatellite from an orbiting microsatellite," said Mark Boudreaux, FASTSAT project manager at the Marshall Center. "This is another significant accomplishment for our inter Agency, Industry and Governmental FASTSAT-HSV01 partnership team."

The NanoSail-D satellite was jointly designed and built by NASA engineers from the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

Key sail design support was provided by ManTech/NeXolve Corp. in Huntsville. The NanoSail-D experiment is managed by Marshall. It is jointly sponsored by the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation and Dynetics Inc., all located in Huntsville.

Follow the NanoSail-D mission operation on Twitter at:

http://twitter.com/nanosaild


For additional information on the timeline of the NanoSail-D deployment visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/501204main_NSD2_timeline_sequence.pdf


To learn more about FASTSAT and the NanoSail-D missions visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/smallsats
 
 
Kimberly Newton
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
256-544-6162
Kimberly.d.newton@nasa.gov