Technology Demonstration Missions: Solar Sails

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Nathan Barnes, Principal Investigator
L'Garde Inc.

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Solar Sail Demonstration Latest News

Solar Sail Demonstrator (SSD)

"Let us create vessels and sails adjusted to the heavenly ether, and there will be plenty of people unafraid of the empty wastes."
-- Johannes Kepler, 17th-century astronomer

The concept of a huge, ultra-thin sail unfurling in space, using the pressure of sunlight to provide propellant-free transport, hovering and exploration capabilities, may seem like the stuff of science fiction. Now, a NASA team developing the "In-Space Demonstration of a Mission-Capable Solar Sail" -- or Solar Sail Demonstrator for short -- intend to prove the viability and value of the technology in the years to come.

Led by industry manufacturer L'Garde Inc. of Tustin, Calif., and including participation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Solar Sail Demonstration mission builds on two successful ground-deployment experiments led by L'Garde in 2005-2006 in a vacuum chamber at the Plum Brook Facility in Sandusky, Ohio. It also leverages the successful deployment of the NanoSail-D sail, a 100-square-foot test article NASA launched to Earth orbit in early 2011 to validate sail deployment techniques.

The Solar Sail Demonstrator will launch on a Falcon 9 in 2015.

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In the Media

NASA Will Launch a 13,000-Square-Foot Solar Sail Next Year (Popular Science)
- The largest solar sail the solar system has ever seen weighs only 70 pounds.

NASA to Launch World's Largest Solar Sail in 2014 (Space.com)
- The largest solar sail ever constructed is headed for the launch pad in 2014.

Page Last Updated: October 30th, 2013
Page Editor: Brooke Boen