NanoSail-D Solar Wind-Rider

Edward Montgomery's team and a team from Ames Research Center hope to deploy a solar sail called NanoSail-D this summer.


(NanoSail-D deployment video)

A SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket will carry it into space from Omelek Island in the Pacific Ocean between July 29th to August 6th.

"NanoSail-D will be the first fully deployed solar sail in space, and the first spacecraft to use solar pressure as a primary means of attitude control or orbital maneuvering," says Montgomery, who is NanoSail-D's payload manager.

"We are always on the lookout for opportunities. Ames owns a slot on the Falcon 1 launch and asked us if we wanted to go along. We said, 'Yes!' We'll use the Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer, or P-POD, developed by the University of California Polytechnic Institute to deploy our sail."

Science fiction fans have been looking forward to this for generations. As Arthur C. Clarke's wrote in his 1964 short story Sunjammer.

"Hold your hands out to the sun. What do you feel? Heat, of course. But there's pressure as well though you've never noticed it, because it's so tiny. Over the area of your hands, it only comes to about a millionth of an ounce. But out in space, even a pressure as small as that can be important for it's acting all the time, hour after hour, day after day. Unlike rocket fuel, it's free and unlimited. If we want to, we can use it; we can build sails to catch the radiation blowing from the sun."

It seems incredible, but the basic idea that light pressure would provide a mechanical means of propulsion may be found in Jules Verne's 1867 novel From the Earth to the Moon:

"...there will some day appear velocities far greater than these, of which light or electricity will probably be the mechanical agent..."
(Read more)

This is particularly noteworthy since the existence of light pressure was not even proven in theory until 1873 (by James Clerk Maxwell).

The Russian theoretician Konstantin Tsiolkovsky worked on the idea of solar sailing in the 1920's, but the first work to spark the interest of scientists and sf writers came in 1951, with the publication of "Clipper Ships of Space." This Astounding Science Fiction article was not a story, but an exposition of the principles of solar sails.

Cordwainer Smith wrote what was probably the first actual story about solar sails in 1960. "The Lady Who Sailed The Soul" took place in the far future, when people ventured on decades-long voyages in ships equipped with solar sails "tissue-metal wings with which the bodies of people finally fluttered out among the stars."

Soon thereafter, a 1962 short story by Jack Vance appeared - a classic named "Sail 25." This is the story of a "sink-or-swim" training cruise in which six space cadets find themselves under the unforgiving tutelage of Henry Belt, who stated that it was his fate to one day die in space:

The ship, great sail spread to the fading sunlight, fled like a ghost - out, always out. Each of the cadets had quietly performed the same calculations, and arrived at the same result. If the swing around Jupiter were not performed with exactitude, if the ship werre not slung back like a stone on a string, there was nothing beyond..."
(Read more from Sail 25).

Cordwainer Smith wrote another story in 1963 with more descriptions of this technology: "immense sails - huge films assorted in space on long, rigid, coldproof rigging."

Via NASA; thanks to Adi for writing in with the story tip.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/27/2008)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Unrolling The Filmy Materials Of Space Tech
'When unfolded and unrolled... it became a tough, gleaming film.' - Jack Vance, 1962.

Bake in Space Bake-Off... In Space!
'A joyous condition commenced for the cook in the electric kitchen...' - Otto Willi Gail, 1929.

Free-Floating Planet Capture Not Rare, Says Paper
'planets which had been pulled from their pathways ages ago by a passing star...' - Balmer and Wylie, 1932.

Spider Flyer Walker Space Suit For Mars Astronauts
'The eight thin metallic legs were pointed downwards...' - Charles Sheffield, 1979.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

TALOS Exoskeleton Development Proceeding
'Suited up, you look like a big steel gorilla...'

Autonomous Robots Navigate Like Rats
'Out of warrens in the wall, tiny robot mice darted.'

SINTEF Robot Cleans Solar Panels
'The window cleaners, with large padded feet...'

Pangorin Restaurant Service Robots
What'll you have? Jawa juice?

Drug Creates Real Melanin Tan
I've used them all my life...

Medical Drones Hover Like Angels Near You
'The death-reversal equipment is on its way...'

SkEye Amazing Israeli Gigapixel Drone
'An eye that could not only see, but fly...'

How Rude! DARPA Wants Robots To Behave More Like Threepio
'Do I know protocol? Why, it's my primary function.'

'Liquid Light' Flows Around Corners
Light as a superfluid.

Unrolling The Filmy Materials Of Space Tech
'When unfolded and unrolled... it became a tough, gleaming film.'

Buddy Companion Robot Your Bulbous Friend
'Nanny was built in the shape of a sphere, a large metal sphere, flattened on the bottom...'

Poli-X1 Prototype Bee Pollinator
Is there anything drones can't do?

Bake in Space Bake-Off... In Space!
'A joyous condition commenced for the cook in the electric kitchen...'

DeepMind AI Baffled By Homer Simpson, Needs Human Help
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off...'

Does Earth's Middle Mantle Hold Oceans Of Water?
Al Gore, you have no idea.

Vaccine Blocks Heroin High
'You're biochemically incapable of getting off...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.