Solar sails are an alternative propulsion system that takes advantage of the pressure of solar radiation to propel a spacecraft. The impact and reflection of the photons emitted by the Sun on the surface of the sail produce a force in the opposite direction to the Sun that accelerates the spacecraft. While it may seem like a romantic way to navigate space, solar sails have captured the interest of the aerospace community since the 1970s where Carl Sagan popularized the idea. Several test missions with solar sails have now been successfully flown (IKAROS and Nano-Sail in 2010, LightSail-1 2015 and LightSail-2 2019) and we can look forward to more in the future.
At the next online #Women4Space conference on 21st at 06:30 pm (CEST), Ariadna Farrés, who has dedicated much of her scientific career to the study of solar sails for missions in the Earth-Sun system, will explain the benefits of using solar sails on missions at Lagrange points and will give further details about how to calculate the necessary trajectories and manoeuvres, which technique changes depending of using solar sails or chemical propulsion systems.
She has a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Barcelona specialized in astrodynamics and celestial mechanics. She is currently working with the Flight Dynamics group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, as an expert on the impact of solar radiation pressure on orbits around Lagrange points, for the James Webb Space Telescope and Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope missions.