A report proposes a high-temperature- resistant solar sail with an areal mass density less than 1 g/m2, for a spacecraft that would approach the Sun to within a distance of 0.2 astronomical unit (≈3 × 107 km). The sail would be made in multiple segments of a carbon microtruss fabric held in a network of tensioned lines. The segments and network would be designed to minimize tension in the fabric. The porosity of the fabric would be tailored so that to photons, the fabric would behave as though it were solid. Reflective metal surface films could be attached to the fabric. In advanced versions, the fabric could be directly coated with metal, or, alternatively, the fabric surface would be the sail surface and there would be no metal layer. The sail fabric would be wrapped around a sail cylinder and deployed by use of centrifugal force. A separate structure next to the sail cylinder would contain most of the deployment hardware and would be ejected after deployment of the sail to reduce the mass staying with the sail.

This work was done by Charles Garner, Stephanie Leifer, Timothy Knowles, and William Layman of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Lightweight Solar Sail for a Spacecraft Flying Near the Sun

(reference NPO-20854) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the October, 2002 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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