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# NASA To Demonstrate Largest-Ever Solar Sail in Space

#### timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the they've-pointed-her-bow-to-the-southern-star dept.

91

Zothecula writes "NASA's upcoming Technology Demonstration Missions are intended to 'transform its space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities.' Three project proposals have been selected for these missions, which should be launching in 2015 and 2016. One of those projects will involve demonstrating a mission-capable solar sail. While NASA has recently tested a solar sail measuring 100 square feet (9.29 square meters), this one will be the largest ever flown, spanning a whopping 409 square feet, or 38 square meters."

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### NASA, I am disappoint (1, Insightful)

#### Reverand Dave (1959652) | about 3 years ago | (#37553756)

Is this something that Neil Armstrong would be disappointed about? I think this is some pretty cool news myself, even though I don't exactly believe it to be the best use of government funds ATM.

### Re:NASA, I am disappoint (1)

#### khallow (566160) | about 3 years ago | (#37553910)

While fiscal prudence should be happening in all government agencies, including NASA, the solar sail is a very interesting piece of technology that should have been explored decades ago. I would suggest that it would be a much more effective use of funds, restricted to NASA, than the SLS (Space Launch System) heavy lift proposal that was aired a couple of weeks ago.

The key advantage is that the propulsion system doesn't run out of fuel. As long as it is exposed to sunlight, one can maneuver it around the Solar System (though propulsion is very weak far away from the Sun). That allows for projects that can survey dozens of objects per probe in the Asteroid Belt, for example.

### Re:NASA, I am disappoint (1)

#### CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 years ago | (#37554578)

The key advantage is that the propulsion system doesn't run out of fuel.

Perhaps; but that doesn't change the fact that it still costs a lot of money [nasa.gov] and fuel [nasa.gov] to break free of the gravity well.

Putting the cart before the horse, if you ask me.

### Re:NASA, I am disappoint (1)

#### LifesABeach (234436) | about 3 years ago | (#37555622)

When it comes to money spent, NASA is still the Red Headed Step Child. But from my backyard view of the Multi-verse, humanity currently comprehends 3 curious methods to climb out of our gravity well. Rockets, Elevator, and Anti-Gravity. One works,(but NASA Administrators act like Edith Bunker and won't use Burt Rutan's solution set). The Elevator is still being developed, and looks to be serviceable, eventually, given humanities comprehension of applied Newtonian Mechanics. Anti-Gravity is still the High School Prom Royalty that can not see me for dirt. The first two are mechanically problematic; but the third one, oh the third one, is the one I still have thoughts for.

### Re:NASA, I am disappoint (1)

#### scottrocket (1065416) | about 3 years ago | (#37559180)

When it comes to money spent, NASA is still the Red Headed Step Child. But from my backyard view of the Multi-verse, humanity currently comprehends 3 curious methods to climb out of our gravity well. Rockets, Elevator, and Anti-Gravity. One works,(but NASA Administrators act like Edith Bunker and won't use Burt Rutan's solution set). The Elevator is still being developed, and looks to be serviceable, eventually, given humanities comprehension of applied Newtonian Mechanics. Anti-Gravity is still the High School Prom Royalty that can not see me for dirt. The first two are mechanically problematic; but the third one, oh the third one, is the one I still have thoughts for.

### Funding (1)

#### RogerWilco (99615) | about 3 years ago | (#37554910)

Like NASA will still be funded then. I don't think NASA will make it past 2013 if even FEMA funding is in question.

### That's Not Whopping (1)

#### Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#37555068)

spanning a whopping 409 square feet, or 38 square meters.

That's not "whopping". In microgravity and near vacuum, "whopping" would be a square kilometer, or a dozen square kilometers. Accelerating probes into outer solar orbits in a few years, dropping network nodes along the way, charging fuel stations for planetary exploration, eventually capturing asteroids for making machines that exploit other planets' resources, eventually colonizing the whole system. The future of inhabiting space is long, but there's little reason to wait for a truly "whopping" sail to get us started.

### That's A Good Thing! (1)

#### Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 years ago | (#37555150)

I sure am glad they are going to demonstrate it in space!

Demonstrating it here on Earth would cause all kinds of problems.

### Actual Size (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37557566)

Article is wrong.
Size of new solar sail is 38m * 38m = 1444 square meters.
155 times bigger than the old one.

There are people shown next to the sail, there is NO WAY that thing is only 6.164414m * 6.164414m.

### Re:Actual Size (1)

#### skelly33 (891182) | about 3 years ago | (#37559280)

/. summary must be wrong.Gizmag itself states in the caption, "this one will be the largest ever flown, spanning a whopping 15,543 square feet, or 1,444 square meters."

I was gonna say - roughly 20x20 feet never sounded so exciting before!

#### Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37562158)

It sounds like these will ride as secondary payloads on Iridium NEXT constellation satellites. Is that a vote of confidence for Iridium from NASA?

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