Solar Sail Microspacecraft

 Link to DoD Proposal Summary

The Solar Sail Microspacecraft (SSM) is a low-cost concept for implementing solar sail propulsion on a practical spacecraft with present-day technology. In the SSM, a simple micro-spacecraft derived vehicle is employed which could cheaply investigate multiple targets and simultaneously demonstrate the utility of small solar sails. The SSM reduces technology risk by using off-the-shelf aluminized mylar. A very small core vehicle with short range communication systems drastically reduces the size of the sails, allowing the spacecraft to be launched as a hitchhiker payload. Because the spacecraft is small, the sail is small, allowing it to be self-deployed using either a rolled spring-steel or inflatable self-deploying boom system. Because of its maneuverability, the SSM could visit multiple targets, engaging in photographic inspection of friendly or adversarial satellites. A SSM could be used to disable or destroy other satellites by parking itself in a position where it blocked the target spacecraft’s solar arrays. It could also be used to interfere with the operation of an opponent’s remote sensing vehicle by using its sails to block the view.

Pioneer’s work on the SSM was supported by SBIR funding from the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.