With this Solar Sail Technology Demonstration Mission (TDM), L’Garde will advance the state of the art of solar sailing. The end goal of this mission is the deployment, flight, and navigation of a mission capable solar sail to demonstrably prove the efficacy of solar sails. This proposed mission will definitively advance the technology of solar sailing for use by future mission planners. Solar sails offer many potential game-changing mission capabilities including the following:
- Debris collection and removal from orbit. Debris can be captured and removed from orbit over a period of years using the small solar-sail thrust.
- De-orbit of spent satellites. Solar sails can be integrated into satellite payloads so that the satellite can be de-orbited at the end of its mission.
- Creating pseudo-Lagrange points by cancelling some solar gravitational pull with the sails. As an example, the GeoStorm project considers locating solar storm warning satellites three times further from the Earth increasing warning time from 15 minutes to 45 minutes.
- Providing synchronous satellites at non-equatorial latitudes, such as the “pole-sitter” project. This allows the northern and southern latitudes to gain the advantages of synchronous satellites.
- Providing deep space propulsion. Payloads free of the Earth’s pull can be accelerated to the other planets, or out of the solar system, such as those proposed for Project Encounter.
However, without a definitive demonstration of a mission capable solar sail the technology is relegated to the realms of conceptual design. This TDM aims to boost the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of the L’Garde solar sail from ~6 to ~9. The four main objectives of the mission are:
- Demonstrate segmented deployment of a solar sail with ~4X the area of that vacuum tested at Plum Brook, “cookie cut” from the center of a much larger sail.
- Demonstrate attitude control plus passive stability and trim using beam-tip vanes.
- Execute a navigation sequence with mission-capable accuracy.
- Fly to and Maintain Position at L1 and pole sitter positions