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Characterization of Candidate Solar Sail Material Exposed to Space Environmental EffectsSolar sailing is a unique form of propulsion where a spacecraft gains momentum from incident photons. Solar sails are not limited by reaction mass and provide continual acceleration, reduced only by the lifetime of the lightweight film in the space environment and the distance to the Sun. Once thought to be difficult or impossible, solar sailing has come out of science fiction and into the realm of possibility. Any spacecraft using this method would need to deploy a thin sail that could be as large as many kilometers in extent. The availability of strong, ultra lightweight, and radiation resistant materials will determine the future of solar sailing. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is concentrating research into the utilization of ultra lightweight materials for spacecraft propulsion. The Space Environmental Effects Team at MSFC is actively characterizing candidate solar sail material to evaluate the thermo-optical and mechanical properties after exposure to space environmental effects. This paper will describe the exposure of candidate solar sail materials to emulated space environmental effects including energetic electrons, combined electrons and Ultraviolet radiation, and hypervelocity impact of irradiated solar sail material. This paper will describe the testing procedure and the material characterization results of this investigation.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Edwards, David (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Hovater, Mary (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Hubbs, Whitney (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Wertz, George (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Hollerman, William (Louisiana Univ. Lafayette, LA, United States)
Gray, Perry (Qualis Corp. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2003
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion and Power
Meeting Information
42nd AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit(Reno, NV)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.