This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 18, 2004

Solar Sails Pass NASA Tests

Photo of solar sail.

The solar sail is an alternative to rocket fuel.
Photo credit: L'Garde

NASA engineers and industry partners have completed tests on variations of solar sail technology, a solar propulsion system that could enable future deep space missions. According to the NASA announcement, released August 9th, the technology bounces a stream of solar particles off giant reflective sails made of lightweight material 40 to 100 times thinner than a piece of writing paper. The continuous pressure provides sufficient thrust to perform maneuvers, such as hovering at a point in space, which would require too much propellant for conventional rocket systems. Solar sails are about the size of a football field and are supported by booms, just like sea ship sails. NASA's industry partners developing space sails include L'Garde Inc, and Able Engineering. For more details on the sails and the tests, see NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center's press release.

For videos, photos, drawings and details on testing of solar sails, see L'Garde's Web site.