Using Sunlight to Power Deep Space Exploration

NASA is using new composite materials for future low-cost deep space missions.

via NASA

The primary objective of the ACS3 mission is to demonstrate the successful deployment of the composite boom solar sail in low-Earth orbit. After reaching space, the mission’s CubeSat spacecraft will deploy its solar power arrays and then begin unfurling its solar sail via four booms that span the diagonals of the square and unspool to reach 7 meters (about 23 feet) in length. After approximately 20 or 30 minutes when the solar sail is fully deployed, the square-shaped solar sail measures approximately 9 meters (about 30 feet) per side or about the size of a small apartment. A suite of onboard digital cameras will obtain images of the sail during and after deployment in order to assess its shape and alignment.

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