NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Propellantless Attitude Control of Solar Sail Technology Utilizing Reflective Control DevicesSolar sails offer an opportunity for a CubeSatscale, propellant-free spacecraft technology that enables long-term and long-distance missions not possible with traditional methods. Solar sails operate using the transfer of linear momentum from photons of sunlight reflected from the surface of the sail. To propel the spacecraft, no mechanically moving parts, thrusters, or propellant are needed. However, attitude control, or orientation, is still performed using traditional methods involving reaction wheels and propellant ejection, which severely limit mission lifetime. For example, the current state of the art solutions employed by upcoming missions couple solar sails with a state of the art propellant ejection gas system. Here, the use of the gas thruster has limited the lifetime of the mission. To solve the limited mission lifetime problem, the Propellantless Attitude Control of Solar Sail Technology Utilizing Reflective Control Devices project team is working on propellantless attitude control using thin layers of material, an optical film, electrically switchable from transparent to reflective. The technology is based on a polymer-dispersed liquid crystal (PDLC), which allows this switch upon application of a voltage. This technology removes the need for propellant, which reduces weight and cost while improving performance and lifetime.
Document ID
Document Type
Other - Brief Communication/Note
Munday, Jeremy
(Maryland Univ. College Park, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
June 27, 2016
Publication Date
April 19, 2016
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
NASA FS-2016-04-05-ARC
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
Solar sail technology
Propellant less attitude control
Electrically switchable optical film
No Preview Available