Technology development

NASA Technology Development Program Selects Solar Sail for Phase III Study

The Nasa The Innovative Advanced Concepts program has identified light-based sail technology as a potential new tool for space transportation.

The diffractive solar sail project moved into Phase III study, earning it the distinction from research and voting body NIAC that it has the greatest ability to produce positive results for NASA, other government departments or private sector companiessaid NASA on Tuesday.

Bill NelsonNASA administrator, said the solar sail prototype is a promising methodology to enable future missions in the distant cosmos, praising NIAC’s effort for its dedication to “unlocking[ing] visionary ideas” and “bring[ing] bring them closer to reality.

Amber DubilThe research team will receive $2 million over two years to fund their continued progress at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. The team must deliver a mission to demonstrate the capabilities of the technology at a later date.

The technology being developed siphons off the pressure emanating from sunlight to propel a craft through space. Diffractive Light Sails, unlike their tall, thin counterparts of the past, use small gratings to diffuse and spread light beams in a more efficient process than previous iterations of Sun Sails. The new diffractive class is intended to make the spacecraft more maneuverable and adjustable in its movements, while retaining its power derived from the sun.

As part of Phase III of Diffractive Solar Sail R&D, Dill’s team is expected to refine the sail material and conduct ground tests. Their efforts are aimed at producing a sail capable of efficiently propelling spacecraft in orbit around the poles of the Sun.

Dubill predicts that the realization of the new technology will have a significant impact on “the needs of the heliophysical community for unique solar observing capabilities.”

“With our team’s combined expertise in optics, aerospace, traditional solar navigation, and metamaterials, we hope to enable scientists to see the Sun like never before,” Dubill continued.