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AIAA 2020-2167
Session: Solar Sails, Solar Shields, and Other Tentioned Membranes
Published Online:

Solar sail membranes must have a high area-to-mass ratio and high solid volume fraction when stowed. In order to meet mission requirements, current solar sail projects, such as the NASA Near Earth Asteroid Scout and Advanced Composite Solar Sail System, require metallized sail membranes with thicknesses on the order of 2-3 µm. These very thin membranes do not retain creases like thicker membranes, solar panels, or paper models. For Cubesat-class spacecraft, volume, rather than mass, is often the driving requirement for deployable structural elements. These two factors make it both difficult and highly desirable to characterize the practical differences between various membrane designs and packaging methods with laboratory demonstrations. This paper presents lessons gathered from lab work on solar sail membranes at a 9-meter scale. Among other results, laboratory deployment of a full-scale sail quadrant revealed important differences between seaming methods.