More solar sail tests coming

Nasa, in conjunction with two engineering firms, will kick off another round of tests on solar sails, which some believe could help propel spacecraft in the future.

A solar sail functions like a regular sailboat sail. But instead of wind, the solar sail is bombarded by photons, particles of light from the Sun. The sail is also extremely thin, between 40 to 100 times thinner than a sheet of paper. Ideally, these sails will allow satellites or space stations to move and perform maneuvers without using conventional rockets, which consume lots of fuel, quickly run out of said fuel, and cost a lot of money.

Starting April 18, two 20-meter solar sails will be put into a vacuum chamber to simulate the conditions of space. The tests will continue through July. Nasa has conducted similar tests in the past two years.

The sail designs were developed by L'Garde of Tustin, Calif. and Goleta, Calif.-based ATK Space Systems. The tests will take place at Nasa facilities in Huntsville, Alabama.

Tags:
Tech Culture
About the author

    Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.

     

    Join the discussion

    Conversation powered by Livefyre

    Show Comments Hide Comments
    Latest Galleries from CNET
    Nissan gives new Murano bold style (pictures)
    Top great space moments in 2014 (pictures)
    This is it: The Audiophiliac's top in-ear headphones of 2014 (pictures)
    ZTE's wallet-friendly Grand X (pictures)
    Lenovo reprises clever design for the Yoga Tablet 2 (Pictures)
    Top-rated reviews of the week (pictures)