Advanced Composite Solar Sail System: Using Sunlight to Power Deep Space Exploration (ACS3)


Utilizing Daylight to Energy Deep Area Exploration

NASA is growing new deployable buildings and supplies applied sciences for photo voltaic sail propulsion programs destined for future low-cost deep house missions. Simply as a sailboat is powered by wind in a sail, photo voltaic sails make use of the strain of daylight for propulsion, eliminating the necessity for typical rocket propellant. NASA’s Superior Composite Photo voltaic Sail System, or ACS3, know-how demonstration makes use of composite supplies – or a mixture of supplies with totally different properties – in its novel, light-weight booms that deploy from a CubeSat. Knowledge obtained from ACS3 will information the design of future larger-scale composite photo voltaic sail programs that might be used for house climate early warning satellites, near-Earth asteroid reconnaissance missions, or communications relays for crewed exploration missions.

The first goal of the ACS3 know-how demonstration is the profitable deployment of the composite increase photo voltaic sail in low-Earth orbit. After reaching house, the ACS3 spacecraft will deploy its solar energy arrays after which start unfurling its photo voltaic sail by way of 4 booms that span the diagonals of the sq. and unspool to succeed in 23 ft (about 7 meters) in size. After roughly 25 minutes, the photo voltaic sail is totally deployed, and the square-shaped photo voltaic sail measures roughly 30 ft (about 9 meters) per aspect, or concerning the dimension of a small condominium. A collection of onboard digital cameras will acquire photographs of the sail throughout and after deployment so as to assess its form and alignment.

ACS3’s sails are supported and related to the spacecraft by booms, which perform very similar to a sailboat’s increase that connects to its mast and retains the sail taut. The composite booms are made out of a polymer materials that’s versatile and bolstered with carbon fiber. This composite materials will be rolled for compact stowage, however stays robust and light-weight when unrolled. Additionally it is very stiff and proof against bending and warping attributable to modifications in temperature. Photo voltaic sails can function indefinitely, restricted solely by the sturdiness of the photo voltaic sail supplies and spacecraft digital programs within the house surroundings. The ACS3 know-how demonstration can even check an progressive tape-spool increase extraction system designed to attenuate jamming of the coiled booms throughout deployment.

Curiosity in photo voltaic crusing as a substitute for chemical and electrical propulsion programs continues to extend. Utilizing daylight to propel small spacecraft in lieu of consumable propellants might be advantageous for a lot of mission profiles and gives flexibility in spacecraft design to assist NASA meet its missions’ aims most effectively.


  • Display profitable deployment of the composite increase in addition to sail packing and deployment programs in low-Earth orbit
  • Consider the efficacy of the form and design of the photo voltaic sail
  • Characterize the thrust performance of the sail because the spacecraft step by step modifications orbit
  • Accumulate information on the sail’s efficiency to tell the design of bigger, extra advanced programs

Quick Info:

  • That is the primary use of composite booms in addition to sail packing and deployment programs for a photo voltaic sail in house.
  • ACS3’s composite booms are 75% lighter and designed to expertise 100 instances much less in-space thermal distortion – change of form beneath warmth – than beforehand flown metallic deployable booms.
  • The photo voltaic sail is designed to suit inside a 12-unit (12U) CubeSat, which measures roughly 9 inches x 9 inches x 13 inches  (23 centimeters x 23 centimeters x 34 centimeters), or concerning the dimension of a small microwave oven. 
  • The composite increase know-how used for this ACS3 know-how demonstration might be utilized in future missions for photo voltaic sails as much as 500 sq. meters (5,400 sq. ft), concerning the dimension of a basketball court docket. Comply with-on composite increase applied sciences now in improvement will allow photo voltaic sails as giant as 2,000 sq. meters (21,500 sq. ft).
  • Launch is anticipated for the primary half of 2024.


  • NASA’s Langley Analysis Heart in Hampton, Virginia, designed and constructed the ACS3 deployable composite booms and photo voltaic sail system.
  • AST&Protection LLC of School Park, Maryland, designed and constructed the 12U CubeSat spacecraft bus for the ACS3 know-how demonstration.
  • NASA’s Ames Analysis Heart in California’s Silicon Valley manages the ACS3 mission and designed and constructed the ACS3 on-board digital camera diagnostic system.
  • Santa Clara College’s Robotics Methods Lab in Santa Clara, California, is offering CubeSat operations help for the ACS3 know-how demonstration.
  • NASA’s Small Spacecraft Expertise program inside the company’s Area Expertise Mission Directorate is sponsoring the ACS3 mission and is offering the funding for the launch.
  • NASA’s Recreation Altering Growth program inside the company’s Area Expertise Mission Directorate developed ACS3’s deployable composite increase know-how.

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Members of the information media interested by overlaying this matter ought to attain out to the NASA Ames newsroom.

Banner picture: A sped up animation of the photo voltaic sail unfurling to its closing dimension. The method of unfurling takes about 25 minutes to finish.
Credit: NASA

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