Spacefarer solar kites for solar system exploration

Welch, C.S., Jack, C and Wall, R (2004) Spacefarer solar kites for solar system exploration. In: 55th International Astronautical Congress; 4 - 8 Oct 2004, Vancouver, Canada.


A solar kite is a small rigid solar sail with an area of a few square metres, capable of carrying a payload of a few hundred grams. In contrast to more ambitious solar sails, a kite can be deployed from its canister by a simple spring-driven mechanism. Because of its very small moment of inertia, a kite can be steered by quasi-passive means. This paper summaries the findings of an ESA-funded research project examining the design, construction and deployment of solar kites, together with the missions they are capable of undertaking and the science data that could be obtained through their use. It focuses in particular on the high performance ‘Spacefarer’ kite capable of progressing from GTO to near-Earth targets including the Moon, Lagrange points and asteroids.

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