Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Jack Vance's Incredibly Thin Solar Sail

Alliant Techsystems and NASA have tested the functional deployment and attitude control of an ultra-lightweight solar sail propulsion system. The 20-meter solar sail and boom system was fully deployed during testing at NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook facility in Sandusky, Ohio.

The lightweight sail material is supported by a series of coilable booms, which are extended via remote control from a central stowage container about the size of a suitcase. The Plum Brook's Space Power Facility is the world's largest space environment simulation chamber, measuring 100-feet in diameter and 122-feet high.


(From Solar Sail Photos)

The coilable mast technology makes possible the gentle tensioning of reflective films on the sail that are just 1/30 the width of a human hair. Additional hardware includes payload fairing interfaces, in-space structural validation elements, an instrument extension boom, propellantless attitude control mechanization, and solar power panels.

When I read about this, I thought immediately about the very early references to solar sails made by Jack Vance in his excellent 1962 short story Sail 25:

Necessarily, the sail must be extremely large and extremely light. We use a fluro-siliconic film a tenth of a mil in gauge, fogged with lithium to the state of opacity. Such a foil weighs about four tons to the square mile. It is fitted to a hoop of thin-walled tubing...
(Read more about Jack Vance's light sail)

When I read this story in the early 1970's, I thought this would be impossible. One-tenth of a mil is just one-ten-thousandth of an inch. If you figure that a human hair is about 3 mils thick, and the ATK solar sail material is 1/30th as thick as a human hair - you get one-tenth of a mil. Pretty close for science fiction - and note the use of a "hoop" to spread it out with.

Read more at NASA tests solar sail technology and 20 meter solar sail and boom system.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/21/2005)

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 ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

NASA 'Holoports' Doctor Onto Space Station
Star Trek Voyager Emergency Medical Hologram

Six Ships Are Now Docked At The International Space Station!
It's getting crowded up there!

Vast Cosmic Structures And Spooky Alignments
'This postulates a force-field of partly electromagnetic character, generated by gyromagnetic action within atomic nuclei near the center of the galaxy.' - Poul Anderson, 1953.

Superfast Energetic Electron 'Precipitation' Pelts Our Earth!
'On the three-dimensional map at weather headquarters on the planet Kaider III, the storm was colored orange.' - AE van Vogt, 1943.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Your Martian Dream Home, Made By Fungi
'... it was the cheapest building material known.'

The Dune Ornithopter, Movie And Book
'The wings were at full spread-rest, their delicate metal interleavings extended.'

100X Improvement In DNA Information Storage
'A record that wouldn't get lost and couldn't be destroyed.'

NASA 'Holoports' Doctor Onto Space Station
Star Trek Voyager Emergency Medical Hologram

Should We Train AIs To Imagine A Future Of Horrific Disasters
'LET ME TELL YOU HOW MUCH I'VE COME TO HATE YOU SINCE I BEGAN TO LIVE.'

Mouth Haptics Invented By Frederik Pohl In 1965, CMU Now Has Prototype
'What he got was indeed a kiss. It was disconcerting. No kissing lips were visible.'

Two Towns Linked By Sculpture Portal In Real Time
'I am the Guardian of Forever.'

3D Printed Robotic Tentacles
'... articulate ropes of steel dangling'

Update: Musk Doubles Down On Optimus Prime Humanoid Robot
'I shall introduce myself. I am R. Daneel Olivaw... I am a robot. Were you not told?'

Elon Musk: Production Of Robotaxis In 2024
'How about the steering wheel... I don't need one.'

True Crime Live Podcasting In Fiction
'And loving it too, those millions. Bloodthirsty to the last one of them.'

AI Employment Decision Software Reconsidered By California Lawmakers
'They had screwed up and been blacklisted by Manna. They were back living with their parents or sleeping on the sofa with a friend.'

Six Ships Are Now Docked At The International Space Station!
It's getting crowded up there!

SUCHO Saving Ukraine's Libraries Digitally
'No human mind could ever hope to master even a small portion of what was being received every second, Sam thought, but it would all be there...'

Optimus Prime Tesla Robot Overall Humanoid Software Architecture
'I shall introduce myself. I am R. Daneel Olivaw... I am a robot. Were you not told?'

Vast Cosmic Structures And Spooky Alignments
'This postulates a force-field of partly electromagnetic character, generated by gyromagnetic action within atomic nuclei near the center of the galaxy.'

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.