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ATK and NASA Successfully Test First Solar Sail Propulsion System
Minneapolis, MN - Alliant Techsystems and NASA have successfully tested the functional deployment and
attitude control of an ultra-lightweight, high-performing solar sail propulsion system.
This was the first in a series of ground-tests for ATK’s sailcraft technology that will be conducted through July. All initial test objectives were met.
The test marks a critical milestone in developing an alternative in-space propulsion technology that uses the sun’s energy instead of onboard propellant to provide thrust. The new propulsion system enables unique orbits critical for communication links and solar activity observatories as well as long-term space exploration programs.
The 20 by 20 meter solar sail system was fully deployed in the 100-ft.-diameter vacuum chamber at NASA Glenn Research Center’s, Plum Brook facility, Sandusky, Ohio. Retroreflective targets measure the shape and dynamics of the system. The gossamer masts, located between the sail quadrants, weigh less than 70 grams per meter of length when sized for an 80-meter sail system.
ATK’s graphite coilable mast technology facilitates the gentle tensioning of reflective films on the sail that are 1/30 the width of a human hair. The ATK-developed scalable square solar sail (S4) architecture allows the system to be compacted by a factor of 100 for launch and remote deployment. Additional hardware includes payload fairing interfaces, in-space structural validation elements, an instrument extension boom, propellantless attitude control mechanization, and solar power panels.
Solar sail technology is being developed by the In-Space Propulsion Technology Program, managed by NASA's Science Mission Directorate and implemented by the In-Space Propulsion Technology Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
ATK is a $2.4 billion advanced weapon and space systems company employing
approximately 14,000 people in 23 states. News and information can be found
on the Internet at http://www.atk.com .
Article has been adapted from a news release issued by ATK.