Reducing Solar Sail Escape Time from Earth Orbit using Beamed Energy

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G. Benford; P. Nissenson (2006), JBIS, 59, 108-111

Refcode: 2006.59.108
Keywords: Solar sails propulsion, orbital mechanics, communications, beamed power, control systems

Abstract:
The time needed for solar sails to escape Earth orbit can be greatly reduced with the aid of electromagnetic beams from photon generators (beamers). However, once a ground-based or orbiting beamer imparts energy to a sail, it may take a relatively long time for the beamer and sail to resonate--that is, for the beamer and sail to come near each other in space or by close overflight, after several orbital periods. For resonance to occur relatively quickly, specific energies must be given to the sail at each boost. If the sail is coated with a substance that sublimes under irradiation, much higher momentum transfers are possible, leading to further reductions in sail escape time. We numerically solve for solar sail trajectories and estimate escape times under a variety of conditions. In general, beamer resonance methods can reduce escape times from Earth orbit by over two orders of magnitude versus using sunlight alone--which takes about a year.

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