Solar sailing

M. Macdonald, Gareth W. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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An introduction to solar sailing is presented. The physical principles are briefly reviewed along with an introduction to the historical context of solar sailing. Potential solar sail configurations are briefly introduced, while placing these in the context of the current hardware development programmes. Following the introduction to solar sailing we progress onto a discussion of solar sail orbital dynamics in a planet-centred environment. The development of solar sail trajectory generation is presented, from Earth escape trajectories through to lunar fly-by trajectories and more accurate Earth escape methods. Much of this work relies on assumptions to generate near-optimal solutions rather than true globally optimal solutions, which are computationally difficult to determine for multiple revolution trajectories. Many of these traditional planet-centred solar sail applications, such as Earth escape, also require rapid attitude slew manoeuvres to achieve. This first lecture is based on theory development and application with a view towards future missions, such as planetary sample return.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2004
EventSummer Workshop on Advanced Topics in Astrodynamics - Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 5 Jul 200410 Jul 2004


ConferenceSummer Workshop on Advanced Topics in Astrodynamics
CityBarcelona, Spain
Internet address


  • solar sails
  • space travel
  • spacecraft
  • aerodynamics
  • space


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