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The solar sail was launched into space after being folded into a simple box!

The solar sail was launched into space after being folded into a simple box!

Missiles are not launched only in China, the United States or Russia. New Zealand has its own launch base, and on Wednesday morning, the mission launched.” The beginning of the swarm “It took off from the Mahia website.

The Electron rocket, designed by Rocket Lab, carried two satellites for two separate customers: NEONSAT-1, a Korean Earth observation satellite for the Satellite Technology Research Center; NASA Composite Solar Sail (ACS3).

Image source: Rocket Lab

Microwave shaped box

If NEONSAT-1 is a classic Earth observation satellite dedicated to monitoring natural disasters along the Korean Peninsula, ACS3, on the other hand, attracts all eyes. Inside a microwave-shaped box (a rectangle with dimensions 23 cm by 23 cm by 34 cm) hides a large folded and rolled metal plate. This is a new type of solar sail, because it uses sunlight and solar wind to propel a spacecraft or satellite.

But before you can even think about using it as a real sailboat, it must be folded into a 1,000-kilometre circular orbit around the Earth. According to the engineers, it takes 25 minutes to spread these long rods of composite material, in the middle of which we find this canvas. When the whole thing unfolds, we get a sail that is 9 meters long on each side.

Approx life size test

This is currently a test flight and from the ground, engineers will monitor deployment time using several cameras to obtain the greatest efficiency and maintain the shape of the solar sail.

“If we can deploy and tighten this film and obtain camera data during the event, then this is already a success.” explains Johnny Fernandez of NASA's Langley Research Center. “The second goal is to use it.”

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In fact, this is a mid-range test since the canvas placed in orbit represents only 40% of what NASA plans to use in the future. Not just for solar sails, because this flexible and resistant material will be at the heart of the Artemis lunar program.

A substance that will soon be found on the moon

“NASA uses the same type of rotating structures to deploy constellations on the Moon’s surface, including solar panels or deployable antennas to communicate with the Moon.” [la] Moon Gate”, The engineer continues.

According to Johnny Fernandez, the materials currently used to design dishes and reflectors on the moon's surface are very sensitive to dust. “Grid reflectors are prone to dust problems on the Moon, so we wanted a solid surface, like a dish here on Earth… rather than creating a dish that folds up like a parachute.” He finishes.