Optical control of solar sails using distributed reflectivity

Andreas Borggrafe, Jeannette Heiligers, Matteo Ceriotti, Colin McInnes

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

7 Citations (Scopus)
166 Downloads (Pure)


The dynamics of solar sails with a variable surface reflectivity distribution are investigated. When changing the reflectivity across the sail film, which can be achieved using electro-chromic coatings, the solar radiation pressure forces and torques across the sail film can be controlled without changing the attitude of the spacecraft relative to the Sun and without using mechanical systems. The paper presents two approaches. First, a continuous reflectivity distribution is presented to control the sail attitude under the influence of, for example, gravity gradient torques in Earth orbit. The second approach assumes discrete
on/o reflectivity regions across the surface. Both concepts of `optical reconfiguration' of solar sails enable a more flexible steering of the spacecraft and minimize actuation effort.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014
EventAIAA SciTech 2014 - Washington, National Harbor, Maryland, United States
Duration: 13 Jan 201417 Jan 2014


ConferenceAIAA SciTech 2014
CountryUnited States
CityNational Harbor, Maryland



  • control applications
  • solar sails
  • reflectivity distribution

Cite this

Borggrafe, A., Heiligers, J., Ceriotti, M., & McInnes, C. (2014). Optical control of solar sails using distributed reflectivity. Paper presented at AIAA SciTech 2014, National Harbor, Maryland, United States. https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2014-0833