Solar sailing: mission applications and engineering challenges

Colin McInnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)


Solar sailing is emerging as a promising form of advanced spacecraft propulsion, which can enable exciting new space-science mission concepts. By exploiting the momentum transported by solar photons, solar sails can perform high-energy orbittransfer manoeuvres without the need for reaction mass. Missions such as planetary sample return, multiple small-body rendezvous and fast missions to the outer Solar System can therefore be enabled with the use of only a modest launch vehicle. In addition, new families of highly non-Keplerian orbits have been identifed that are unique to solar sails, and can enable new ways of performing space-science missions. While the opportunities presented by solar sailing are appealing, engineering challenges are still to be solved before the technology comes to fruition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2989-3008
Number of pages19
JournalPhilosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number1813
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2003


  • solar sailing
  • solar photons
  • spacecraft
  • propulsion
  • space
  • space travel

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Solar sailing: mission applications and engineering challenges'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this