Sunjammer (spacecraft)


''Sunjammer'' (Solar Sail Demonstrator) was a
NASA The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; ) is an independent agencies of the United States government, independent agency of the Federal government of the United States, U.S. federal government responsible for the civilian Lis ...

mission intended to demonstrate a
solar sail Solar sails (also called light sails or photon sails) are a method of spacecraft propulsion using radiation pressure exerted by sunlight on large mirrors. A number of spaceflight missions to test solar propulsion and navigation have been propo ...
constructed by
LGarde LGarde, also L'Garde or L·Garde, is an American aerospace and defense technology company founded in 1971 in Orange County, CA and is the primary contractor for the Sunjammer (spacecraft), Sunjammer spacecraft, the world largest solar sail. The c ...
, but was canceled before launch. The largest solar sail made as of 2013, ''Sunjammer'' was named after a 1964 Arthur C. Clarke story of the same name, '' Sunjammer'', in which several solar sails compete in a race to the Moon. ''Sunjammer'' was slated to launch in January 2015 as the secondary payload of a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle, along with the Earth observation satellite DSCOVR. Citing a lack of confidence in its contractor's ability to deliver, the mission was canceled in October 2014.

Spacecraft design

Constructed of Kapton in order to withstand the extreme temperatures of space, ''Sunjammer'' has a width and height of , giving it a total surface area of over and making it the largest solar sail as of 2013. Despite its huge surface area, ''Sunjammer'' has a thickness of only 5 micrometre, μm, giving it an extremely low weight of about and allowing it to be stored in a space the size of a dishwasher. Once in space, the large surface area of the solar sail would allow it to achieve a thrust of about 0.01 newton (unit), N — roughly the weight of a sugar packet. To control its orientation, and via this its speed and direction, ''Sunjammer'' was to use gimballed vanes (each of which is itself a small solar sail) located at the tips of each of its 4 booms, instead of thrusters, completely eliminating the need for any propellant other than the rays of the Sun. In addition to being a demonstration craft, ''Sunjammer'' was to collect scientific data in its own right. With several instruments to detect various aspects of space weather, ''Sunjammer'' could have eventually become part of a larger network of solar sails studying the Sun, allowing for the creation of a more robust early-warning system for space weather.


Prior to its cancellation, ''Sunjammer'' was slated for launch in January 2015 aboard a Falcon 9 launch vehicle, a slight delay from an earlier projection of November 2014. It was to launch as a secondary payload along with the primary DSCOVR Earth observation and space weather satellite. Within two months of launch the spacecraft was to test various technologies, such as deployment, vector control via altitude vanes, and eventually reaching a location near the Earth-Sun Lagrange point, L1 Lagrange point.


Sunjammer was to carry two British space science payloads: the Solar Wind Analyser (SWAN) developed by the Mullard Space Science Laboratory of University College London, and the MAGIC magnetometer developed by the Blackett Laboratory of Imperial College London.Sunjammer spacecraft to 'sail' towards the sun - Telegraph
/ref> Sunjammer was to carry a Celestis, Celestis Memorial Spaceflight payload of cremated remains.

See also

* CubeSail * CubeSail (UltraSail) * IKAROS, a Japanese solar sail, launched in May 2010 * LightSail, a controlled solar sail CubeSat to launch in 2018 * NanoSail-D2, the successor to NanoSail-D, launched in November 2010 * Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a solar sail CubeSat planned to launch in 2022


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External links

Sunjammer Solar Sail Mission web site
L'Garde Inc. Sunjammer page

NASA Sunjammer Mission page
The Sunjammer Solar Sail: Making Your Loved One Part of Space History
Celestis Sunjammer page
Space and Atmospheric Physics Group, Imperial College London Solar sail spacecraft Satellites of the United States Cancelled spacecraft Projects disestablished in 2014