Parametric model and optimal control of solar sails with optical degradation

Bernd Dachwald, Giovanni Mengali, Alessandro A. Quarta, M. Macdonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)


Solar-sail mission analysis and design is currently performed assuming constant optical and mechanical properties of the thin metalized polymer films that are projected for solar sails. More realistically, however, these properties are likely to be affected by the damaging effects of the space environment. The standard solar-sail force models can therefore not be used to investigate the consequences of these effects on mission performance. The aim of this paper is to propose a new parametric model for describing the sail film's optical degradation with time. In particular, the sail film's optical coefficients are assumed to depend on its environmental history, that is, the radiation dose. Using the proposed model, the optimal control laws for degrading solar sails are derived using an indirect method and the effects of different degradation behaviors are investigated for an example interplanetary mission.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1170-1178
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • space application
  • indirect method
  • modeling
  • medium effect
  • spacecraft
  • solar sail
  • optical activity
  • optimal control


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