Solar and Microwave Passive Propulsion

Sail propulsion using reflected photon pressure

Solar sail
Image from Steve Bowers

Microwave and optical laser and solar sails have the attractiveness of providing a virtually engineless and fueless craft; photons simply provide the momentum necessary to send the spacecraft to its proper destination.

But as with every form of space ship propulsion these, too, have their share of disadvantages: pointing accuracy of laser-driven probes, dependence on ground infrastructure for laser or maser launched and propelled ships, low intensity of solar light outside the solar system for solar sails, ultra-low payload mass (which makes them perfect for nanoprobes but very inefficient at larger scales), vulnerability of the huge sails (hundreds of square kilometers) to accumulative micrometeoroid damage, etc.

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    Solar surfing, also known as sun diving or sun skipping, is a form of vec entertainment in which specially designed ships are placed in a orbit such that they will fly through the outer edges of a star and even skip across its surface. Highly dangerous sport requiring high speeds and extremely accurate trajectories. May also refer to riding solar flares and other solar eruptions.
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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Initially published on 31 December 2001.

Additional Information