Solar sail passes important milestone - Looks to fly in space by 2015

12/04/2013 - 00:00

The team of NASA, L’Guarde, and Space Services Inc. are preparing for theSunjammer space mission that in 2015 will see the first deep space deployment of a solar sail. On September 30, the Sunjammer team completed a milestone when they successfully deployed a quarter panel of the spacecraft’s solar sail.

The test was conducted at L’Guarde’s facility in Tustin California with the aim of demonstrating how the four sail quadrants would deploy from the spacecraft. For the ground-based test, only one quadrant of the 13,000 sq ft (1,200 sq m) sail was unfurled with a sturdy boom supporting the sail on two sides.

Carrying the test out under Earth gravity and with air resistance actually made things more difficult than an actual deployment in the weightlessness and vacuum of space. "If this test succeeded under these stressing conditions, we certainly anticipate it will work exceedingly well in space" says Nathan Barnes, President of L'Garde.