NASA wants to impress the world again by creating the world’s largest solar sail. The agency’s upcoming Technology Demonstration Missions are intended to “transform its space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities.”
The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration is one of the three projects selected by NASA for the Technology Demonstration Missions planned to be launched between 2015 and 2016.
Another will be demonstrating a mission-capable solar sail that is expected to be the largest ever built, in an upcoming space mission.
NASA has already tested a solar sail measuring 100 square feet (9.29 square meters), but the last one will measure nearly 15,543 square feet (1,444 square meters).
The solar sail could also be used to accumulate orbital debris over a period of several years. It could also be attached to the satellites’ platform and activated at the end of their mission, dragging them out of their orbit.
The new solar sail technology could have a great impact on the way space missions are controlled, powered and deployed.