Deep Space Without Fuel. A New Development Of Russian Scientists
A space sailboat capable of maneuvering without using fuel was designed by scientists at Samara University. Their research has shown for the first time the real applicability of the solar sail for long-distance flights. The results are published in the journal Advances in Space Research.
A solar sail is a device that uses the pressure of sunlight to propel spacecraft. Reflecting from the mirror surface of the sail, photons, like the wind, push the ship forward.
Specialists of Samara University note that the advantages of spaceflight (as they call space flights under sail) are potentially unlimited time and range of flight at a relatively high speed, which is very important for scientific missions. The development of such systems is gaining momentum around the world, although the idea, according to scientists, still causes a lot of controversy and skepticism.
Back in 2010, the Japanese satellite IKAROS was launched, where the sail deployment and control systems were tested. However, the sailboats created later did not leave earth orbit, so it remained unclear whether such devices were capable of bearing the loads typical for distant space travel.
To answer this question, experts from Samara University analyzed how a real sail, rather than its ideal model, will affect the movement of the device.
"Previously, the simulation did not take into account several circumstances: for example, that the sail may not reflect all the incident light, that the shape of its surface differs from the ideal plane, or that its material may age and degrade under the influence of radiation," explained Olga Starinova, Professor of the Department of flight dynamics and control systems at Samara University.
According to scientists, calculations indicate that the sail will not burn or break during the flight, for example, to the vicinity of the Sun or the orbit of Jupiter. The authors believe that the results obtained allow us to move from model studies to experiments in space.
"The project is unique in that the space sailboat will maneuver without using fuel. The idea is that the liquid crystal film covering the sails changes its transparency under the influence of electric current from solar panels, thereby changing the reflectivity of different sections of the sail and, consequently, the flight path," said Irina Chernyakina, an assistant at the Department of higher mathematics at Samara University.
Further research of the research team is related to finding the optimal shape of the sailboat and improving the sail itself-lightening, applying various coatings, and creating additional acceleration technologies.
Samara University is one of the world's recognized leaders in space sailing technologies. Today, its specialists are actively involved in most domestic and international projects in this area.