GeoSail: an elegant solar sail demonstration mission

Malcolm Macdonald, Gareth W. Hughes, Colin McInnes, Aleksander Lyngvi, Peter Falkner, Alessandro Atzei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)
210 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper a solar sail magnetotail mission concept was examined. The 43-m square solar sail is used to providethe required propulsion for continuous sun-synchronous apse-line precession. The main driver in this mission was found to be the reduction of launch mass and mission cost while enabling a nominal duration of 2 years within the framework of a demonstration mission. It was found that the mission concept provided an excellent solar sail technology demonstration option. The baseline science objectives and engineering goals were addressed, and mission analysis for solar sail, electric, and chemical propulsion performed. Detailed subsystems were defined for each propulsion system and it was found that the optimum propulsion system is solar sailing. A detailed tradeoff as to the effect of spacecraft and sail technology levels, and requirements, on sail size is presented for the first time. The effect of, for example, data acquisition rate and RF output power on sail size is presented, in which it is found that neither have a significant effect. The key sail technology requirements have been identified through a parametric analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)784-796
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


  • space craft
  • space flight
  • rockets
  • astrodynamics
  • propulsion systems
  • solar sails


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