Solar polar orbiter: a solar sail technology reference study

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

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67 Citations (Scopus)
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An assessment is presented of a Solar Polar Orbiter mission as a Technology Reference Study. The goal is to focus the development of strategically important technologies of potential relevance to future science missions. The technology is solar sailing, and so the use of solar sail propulsion is, thus, defined a priori. The primary mission architecture utilizes maximum Soyuz Fregat 2-1b launch energy, deploying the sail shortly after Fregat separation. The 153 × 153 m square sail then spirals into a circular 0.48-astronomical-unit orbit, where the orbit inclination is raised to 90 deg with respect to the solar equator in just over 5 years. Both the solar sail and spacecraft technology requirements have been addressed. The sail requires advanced boom and new thin-film technology. The spacecraft requirements were found to be minimal because the spacecraft environment is relatively benign in comparison with other currently envisaged missions, such as the Solar Orbiter mission and BepiColombo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)960-972
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2006


  • solar sails
  • propulsion systems
  • space
  • orbit
  • guidance systems
  • spacecraft


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