Terrestrial planet sample return missions using solar sail propulsion

Gareth W. Hughes, M. Macdonald, Colin McInnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


An assessment of terrestrial planet sample return missions utilising solar sail propulsion is presented, in addition to sample return from a high inclination near-Earth asteroid, 2001 QP153. Payloads have been sized based on existing studies or have been custom designed and sized. Heliocentric and planetocentric trajectory analysis has been conducted to assess the sail performance level required to return samples within a reasonable timescale, whilst maintaining manageable sail dimensions. Sail technology is based on projected data from existing development programmes. Solar sailing appears to offer modest benefits in returning a sample from Mars or Venus, but significant benefits for Mercury Sample Return. In addition, sample return from high-energy targets such as asteroid 2001 QP153 appears to be only possible when using the solar sail as the enabling propulsion technology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-806
Number of pages9
JournalESA European Space Agency Bulletin
Issue number8-11
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • solar sails
  • planets
  • space travel
  • guidance systems
  • propulsion


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