A New Model for the Planetary Radiation Pressure Acceleration for Solar Sails

L. Carzana*, P.N.A.M. Visser, M.J. Heiligers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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Solar sailing is a propellantless propulsion method that takes advantage of solar
radiation pressure to generate thrust. The last decades have seen the launch of
several solar-sail missions to demonstrate the technology’s potential for space
exploration and exploitation. Even more missions are scheduled for launch in
the near future, including NASA’s ACS3 and NEA Scout missions and Gama’s
Alpha sailcraft. Although most of these sailcraft have flown – or will fly – in
LEO, where the planetary radiation pressure is strong (up to approximately 20%
of the solar radiation pressure), studies on the perturbing accelerations produced
by the Earth’s albedo and blackbody radiation have been conducted only to a
very limited first-order extent. This paper therefore provides a novel, detailed
analytical model for these perturbing accelerations, valid for double-sided perfectly
reflecting solar sails. The underlying assumptions of the model are presented
and its full derivation is described. A thorough analysis of the blackbody
and albedo radiation pressure accelerations is conducted for a variety of orbital
conditions and Sun-Earth-sail configurations. In order to quantify the accuracy
of the model, a comparison with the state of the art (the finite-disk radiation
source model) is provided. Ultimately, a variety of analyses to quantify the effect
of Earth’s albedo and blackbody radiation on the maneuvering capabilities
of solar sails are provided, using the orbit of the ACS3 mission as reference scenario.
These analyses show that, for an orbit-raising steering law, losses in the
altitude gain of 19.6% of the total gain are incurred over a 10-day orbit-raising
period. Similarly, losses in the inclination gain of up to 25% of the total gain are
observed when implementing an inclination-changing steering law. These results
highlight the non-negligible effect of uncontrolled planetary radiation pressure
acceleration on the maneuvering capabilities of solar sails in LEO.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2022 AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventAAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference 2022 - Charlotte, United States
Duration: 7 Aug 202211 Aug 2022


ConferenceAAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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