NASA Solar Sail to usher low-cost, renewable space travel

NASA Solar Sail to usher low-cost, renewable space travel

/ 12:01 PM April 23, 2024

The desire to explore has compelled many to create new technologies for millennia. For example, we invented ships that harness the wind that carries us to faraway places.

Eventually, we created gas-powered engines, hydroelectric power, and even magnetic levitation (Maglev) for trains. Surprisingly, NASA will take us full circle with the solar sail.

READ: Japan to launch flying solar 5G stations in 2025


The space agency announced it will launch technology that will propel spacecraft with solar power. As a result, space exploration may become more affordable and eco-friendly.


How does NASA’s Solar Sail work? says solar sails are a spacecraft propulsion system that takes advantage of how photons work. Sunlight consists of photons that exert a minuscule force you won’t notice on Earth. 

However, that force works differently in space. Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, “For every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Photons bouncing off a spaceship push it slightly away from the Sun. The vacuum of space has no air resistance, meaning sunlight’s push could accumulate until it provides a spaceship significant thrust.

The NASA Solar Sail is also known as the Advanced Composite Solar Sail System. It uses a twelve-unit (12U) CubeSat built by NanoAvionics.

It also has a new composite boom consisting of flexible polymer and carbon fiber materials that are lighter and stiffer than previous boom designs.

The space organization’s Solar Sail will make its maiden voyage aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron Rocket, which will launch in Māhia, New Zealand.


The Solar Sail will turn to face the Sun to provide constant thrust, similar to a yacht or an ancient ship. 

Modern space explorations burn fossil fuels to reach space, but they leave greenhouse gases, exhaust relatively quickly, and require massive funding.

Soon, the NASA Solar Sail might eliminate these problems, allowing more countries to start launching space explorations.

Alan Rhodes, the mission’s lead systems engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, said:

“The Sun will continue burning for billions of years, so we have a limitless source of propulsion. Instead of launching massive fuel tanks for future missions, we can launch larger sails that use ‘fuel’ already available.”

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

“We will demonstrate a system that uses this abundant resource to take those next giant steps in exploration and science.”  

TOPICS: NASA, technology
TAGS: NASA, technology

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.