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Solar Sails: Deeper into the Aerographite Option

29 Jul 2020, 11:55 UTC
Solar Sails: Deeper into the Aerographite Option
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Aerographite is an ultra lightweight material made of carbon microtubes, just the sort of thing that seizes the imagination in terms of material for space sails powered by solar photons or laser beam. Such materials are much in my thinking these days and have been for some time, ever since I first read some of Robert Forward’s papers on using laser beaming to boost enormous sails to a substantial fraction of lightspeed. What kind of materials would be used, and how could the mass be kept low enough to allow significant payloads to be deployed?
These days, we think in terms of much smaller sails with miniaturized payloads of the sort advocated by Breakthrough Starshot. But of course advances in sail technology enable a wide range of concepts, and the place to start is with laboratory experiment — this is where we are with aerographite right now — moving into space demonstrators that can be low-cost and near-term. The kinds of missions conceivable with aerographite include fast access to the outer Solar System and, with the help of a close solar pass, interstellar trajectories to nearby stars.
What we are examining in this series of posts is a concept ...

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