Available Technology

CubeSat Solar Sail Propulsion System

Abstract: 
Providing high delta-V propulsion to extremely small spacecraft, including 6U and 12U cubesats, is challenging. These vehicles are highly constrained on volume, mass, cost and usually must be launched inert so as to not pose a threat to the vehicle launching them or the primary payload. Meeting these requirements simultaneously is exceedingly difficult. One such propulsion system, a solar sail, has been developed for use on small spacecraft -- as small as a 6U cubesat. Solar sails use sunlight to propel vehicles through space by reflecting solar photons from a large, mirror-like sail. This continuous photon pressure provides propellantless thrust, allowing for very high Delta-V maneuvers on long-duration, deep-space exploration. Capable of being packaged into 1/3 the volume of a 6U cubesat, the Solar Sail Propulsion system is capable of maneuvering the spacecraft in a controlled fashion, providing a characteristic acceleration of .0601 mm/sec^2 with an 86 square meter solar sail propulsion system.
Benefits: 
applications: 
Patent Number: 
0
Internal Laboratory Ref #: 
MFS-33429-1
Patent Status: 
Patent Issue Date: 
January 1, 1970
Agency
NASA
Region
Southeast
State: 
Alabama
Phone: 
256-544-9151
Email: 
terry.taylor@nasa.gov
Lab Representatives
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