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Photon Propelled Space Vehicles

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3 Author(s)
Hock, D.C. ; Res. Div., Radiation Inc., Orlando, Fla. ; Mcmillan, F.N. ; Tanguay, A.R.

The interplanetary trajectories of vehicles propelled by solar radiation pressure are analyzed, and are shown to be logarithmic spirals if thrust direction is constant with respect to the vehicle-sun line. The required thrust may be obtained with a solar sail. Sail size as a function of trip time to Mars is determined for solar thrust, oriented tangent to the trajectory. Solar propulsion is compared with chemical and electrical propulsion. It is shown that a solar-sail-powered space vehicle on a journey from earth to Mars operates with a payload and flight time penalty when compared with a ballistic vehicle. However, the work capacity per unit weight of a solar sail is calculated to be superior to an electrical engine, which in turn is vastly superior to a chemical engine when the work is compared on the basis of equal flight times.

Published in:

Proceedings of the IRE  (Volume:48 ,  Issue: 4 )

Date of Publication:

April 1960

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