Solar Sails: Technology and demonstration status

Les Johnson, Roy Young, Nathan Barnes, Louis Friedman, Vaios Lappas, Colin McInnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
266 Downloads (Pure)


Solar Sail propulsion has been validated in space (IKAROS, 2012) and soon several more solar-sail propelled spacecraft will be flown. Using sunlight for spacecraft propulsion is not a new idea. First proposed by Frederick Tsander and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in the 1920's, NASA's Echo 1 balloon, launched in 1960, was the first spacecraft for which the effects of solar photon pressure were measured. Solar sails reflect sunlight to achieve thrust, thus eliminating the need for costly and often very-heavy fuel. Such "propellantless" propulsion will enable whole new classes of space science and exploration missions previously not considered possible due to the propulsive-intense maneouvers and operations required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-427
JournalInternational Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


  • solar sail
  • in-space propulsion
  • sunjammer
  • NanoSail-D
  • Cube-Sail
  • LightSail-1

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