Sandzhammer — Space "Solar sail", old dream of science fiction writers, will be launched next year. This unit will not have any engines, and its mission is to make due to the pressure of light.
Light vehicle "Sandzhammer" will be attached to a giant square of the finest polymer film, which will help him to move only by the pressure of light. The experts were interested to know how to behave in space vehicles without the traditional engine.
The building of the "sail" NASA commissioned a private firm in California. "Sail" will launch into space by the end of 2014. In the first two months in space, scientists will test control apparatus. Its edges can vary by changing the direction of the reflected light, and hence the thrust vector. After testing the "solar sail" will go to the final step — a Lagrange point L1 (it is on the line between the Sun and Earth at 1.5 million km from the Earth) and will be there to balance, using light pressure. Equilibrium in the L1 is unstable.
But that is where it would be convenient to place the probe early warning of solar flares, causing magnetic storms on Earth. To keep the normal probe L1 would require fuel.
The name "Sandzhammer" is taken from a story by science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke about race "solar yacht." And this is not the first "sail" in space. Back in 1993, with the orbital station Mir unfolded "Banner-2" — a giant solar mirror of a thin film. Checked whether they can illuminate the night of the Earth. The experiment was a success: the Earth ran a sunspot the size of a 5 km. In Russia in the 2000s, there were attempts to start the "sail", but as an engine, said senior researcher at the Institute of Space Research Nathan Eysmont:
"The machine made Lavochkin, it had to start from a submarine. So we tested ballistic missiles. There was a proposal to use the triggers for scientific purposes. But in its purest form ballistic missile is not suitable for this purpose. She added a further step, when you start the second stage did not work. A satellite with a "sail" is not entered orbit. "
The experiments in Earth orbit with "sails" were and at NASA — the devices NanoSail-D, and NanoSail-D2. However, the driving properties of the sails of the best showed only Japanese machine IKAROS, started in 2010 to Venus. Due to the light, he spent six months accelerated to 100 meters per second.
When scientists get a better idea how to behave in space "solar sailing", you can think about the future missions. Besides the scientific probes may be braking and descent from the old earth orbit satellites, and other debris. It is tempting to use the device, hovering above the South Pole, as a repeater radio — the usual satellites pole barely see. Even probable flight to Mars, said member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics korrnspondent Yuri Caras:
"To go to Mars, you need to deploy the sail in 10-15 football fields. It will be a great design, and it is difficult to control. Not to mention the fact that its in space is not easy to collect. So the idea is beautiful, but its practical implementation on a large scale need more engineers and constructively to grow. "
According to experts, the "light" pull just 1 gram, as in "Sandzhammera" is not so little. This force can perform the same maneuvers as conventional rocket engines, only for a much longer time. One must also take into account that the distance from the Sun's radiation pressure drops dramatically: near Jupiter's pull the same sails will be 100 times weaker than Earth orbit. Therefore, the journey to the distant outer Solar System at such a "motor" drags on for a long time.