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The Path toward an Aerographite Sail

30 Jul 2020, 17:00 UTC
The Path toward an Aerographite Sail
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

I’ve focused on aerographite these past several days because sail materials are a significant determinant of the kind of missions we can fly both in the near-term and beyond. The emergence of a new ‘contender’ to join graphene as a leading candidate for deep space missions is worthy of note. Whether or not this ultra lightweight material produced by teams at the Technical University of Hamburg and the University of Kiel lives up to its promise will depend upon a thorough investigation of its properties as adapted for sails, one which has already begun.
Sail materials matter because we have already begun flying spacecraft with these technologies, so that as we climb the learning curve in terms of design and engineering, we need to be thinking about how to increase performance to allow ambitious missions, and perhaps even audacious ones like Breakthrough Starshot, though the authors of the first paper on aerographite for sails are skeptical about whether the material could withstand the demands of the Starshot laser push.
Aerographite seems to allow strikingly fast missions using solar photons alone — the paper discusses reaching Pluto orbit in less than 5 years, for example — but the authors of ...

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