Sail Concepts

LightSail Reboots: Sail Deployment Soon

June 1, 2015

It was a worrisome eight days, but LightSail has broken its silence with an evident reboot and return to operations, sending telemetry to ground stations and taking test images. We now have sail deployment possibly as early as Tuesday morning EDT (15:44 UTC), but according to The Planetary Society’s Jason Davis, much will depend on […]

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LightSail Glitch: Hoping for a Reboot

May 27, 2015

The Planetary Society’s LightSail won’t stay in orbit long once its sail deploys, a victim of inexorable atmospheric drag. But we’re all lucky that in un-deployed form — as a CubeSat — LightSail can maintain its orbit for about six months. Some of that extended period may be necessary given the problem the spacecraft has […]

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LightSail Aloft!

May 21, 2015

One of the joys of science fiction is the ability to enter into conjectured worlds at will, tweaking parameters here and there to see what happens. I remember talking a few years ago to Jay Lake, a fine writer especially of short stories who died far too young in 2014. Jay commented that while it […]

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Project Dragonfly Design Competition Funded

May 11, 2015

Andreas Hein recently wrote up the Project Dragonfly design competition, which has been running as a Kickstarter project. Leveraging advances in miniaturization and focusing on laser-beamed lightsail technologies, Project Dragonfly aims to study the smallest possible spacecraft. From the Kickstarter announcement: Project Dragonfly builds upon the recent trend of miniaturization of space systems. Just a […]

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Project Dragonfly: Design Competitions and Crowdfunding

April 22, 2015

by Andreas Hein Centauri Dreams readers most likely know Andreas Hein as the head of Project Hyperion, an effort for Icarus Interstellar to examine the prospects for manned interstellar flight, but he has also written in these pages about the uploading of consciousness. Now working on his PhD at the Technical University of Munich, Andreas […]

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Our View of a Decelerating Magsail

March 25, 2015

Yesterday’s post looked at the question of starship detection. But the paper by Ulvi Yurtsever and Steven Wilkinson that I discussed actually focused on a highly specific subset of such observations, the case of an artificial object moving at such high gamma factors that the ship’s velocity was over 99 percent of the speed of […]

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Looking Ahead to LightSail

February 3, 2015

The news that The Planetary Society is readying the first of its Lightsail spacecraft for a May launch stirs memories of Cordwainer Smith (Paul Linebarger) and mainframe computers. Smith wrote his haunting science fiction in the days when computers filled entire rooms, and the pilot who flies a solar sail thousands of kilometers wide in […]

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Giovanni Vulpetti: Clarifying Magsail Concepts

January 22, 2015

Over the years we’ve looked at magnetic sail (magsail) concepts of various kinds and discussed whether a spacecraft could do such things as ‘riding’ the solar wind to high velocities, or use a stellar wind to brake against as it entered a destination solar system. But just how workable is the magsail? In a 2007 […]

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Hybrid Strategies for Deep Space

November 6, 2014

On Monday I touched on the topic of multi-modal spacecraft, wondering whether future deep space missions might carry twin or even triple systems of propulsion. The example I want to tinker with is an interstellar craft driven by beamed energy, akin to some of Robert Forward’s designs in the 1980s. Forward went through enormous challenges […]

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A Near-Term Sail Niche

November 5, 2014

When Les Johnson spoke to a session on sail technologies at the 100 Year Starship symposium in Houston last September, he startled some in the audience by going through a list of how many solar sail missions are now in the works. The European Space Agency’s Gossamer program accounts for one of these, which is […]

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