Delivering fast and capable missions to the outer solar system

McInnes, C.r. (2004) Delivering fast and capable missions to the outer solar system. Advances in Space Research, 34(1), pp. 184-191. (doi: 10.1016/j.asr.2003.02.063)

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Concepts for science missions to the outer solar system and beyond traditionally suffer from the multiple burdens of long trips times, power starved payloads and a severe communications bottleneck for data returns. This paper will consider the use of solar sail propulsion to address some, or even all of these issues in the mid to far-term. By using a short inner-loop about the Sun, solar sails can quickly accelerate payloads to cruise speeds of greater than 10 AU per year from Earth escape, with a sail payload mass fraction of order 50% or more. The technology required for such solar sails is currently under development and there is a clear pathway from current plans for near-term technology demonstration missions to these fast trips to the outer solar system. Looking further ahead, technologies can be envisaged where the solar sail is used as a multi-functional system to provide propulsion, power collection and telecommunications. With sustained development, current ideas for embedding smart actuators and sensors in the sail structure may enable solar sails with variable morphology which can be configured as a solar concentrator for power generation and a large antenna for high-bandwidth data returns. These visionary concepts will be explored and a roadmap drawn up which will deliver fast and capable missions to the outer solar system and beyond.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McInnes, Professor Colin
Authors: McInnes, C.r.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Systems Power and Energy
Journal Name:Advances in Space Research
Published Online:20 April 2004

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