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ATK and NASA Successfully Test First Solar Sail Propulsion System

A 20-meter solar sail and boom system, developed by ATK Space Systems of Goleta, Calif., is fully deployed during testing at NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook facility in Sandusky, Ohio. Blue lights positioned beneath the system help illuminate the four triangular sail quadrants as they lie outstretched in Plum Brook's Space Power Facility - the world's largest space environment simulation chamber. The sail material is supported by a series of coilable booms, which are extended via remote control from a central stowage container about the size of a suitcase, and is made of an aluminized, plastic-membrane material called CP-1. The material is produced under license by SRS Technologies of Huntsville, Ala. The deployment, part of a series of tests that began April 18, is a critical milestone in the development of solar sail propulsion technology that could lead to more ambitious inner Solar System robotic exploration. (NASA/MSFC)
Minneapolis MN (SPX) May 09, 2005
Alliant Techsystems and NASA have successfully tested the functional deployment and attitude control of an ultra-lightweight, high-performing solar sail propulsion system.

This was the first in a series of ground-tests for ATK's sailcraft technology that will be conducted through July. All initial test objectives were met.

The test marks a critical milestone in developing an alternative in-space propulsion technology that uses the sun's energy instead of onboard propellant to provide thrust.

The new propulsion system enables unique orbits critical for communication links and solar activity observatories as well as long-term space exploration programs.

The 20 by 20 meter solar sail system was fully deployed in the 100-ft.- diameter vacuum chamber at NASA Glenn Research Center's, Plum Brook facility, Sandusky, Ohio.

Retroreflective targets measure the shape and dynamics of the system. The gossamer masts, located between the sail quadrants, weigh less than 70 grams per meter of length when sized for an 80-meter sail system.

ATK's graphite coilable mast technology facilitates the gentle tensioning of reflective films on the sail that are 1/30 the width of a human hair.

The ATK-developed scalable square solar sail (S4) architecture allows the system to be compacted by a factor of 100 for launch and remote deployment.

Additional hardware includes payload fairing interfaces, in-space structural validation elements, an instrument extension boom, propellantless attitude control mechanization, and solar power panels.

Solar sail technology is being developed by the In-Space Propulsion Technology Program, managed by NASA's Science Mission Directorate and implemented by the In-Space Propulsion Technology Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala..

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NASA To Test 20-Meter Solar Sail Technology
Huntsville AL (SPX) Apr 08, 2005
NASA engineers and their industry partners are preparing to test two 20-meter (66-feet) long solar sail propulsion system designs - a critical milestone in development of a unique propulsion technology using the Sun's energy that could lead to future deep space missions.

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