Abstract

Solar sailing has been increasingly considered for future space missions as an alternative method of propulsion, since it uses radiation pressure exerted by sunlight on a large mirrored surface for thrust and it does not require propellants such as chemicals or compressed gasses. For decades, single solar sail designs and deployment mechanisms have been studied and implemented in several CubeSats with the purpose of propulsion or deorbiting. Recently, a distributed four sail design has been proposed. The distributed four sails would have the potential to not only provide the spacecraft with propulsion force for space travel, but also control the attitude of the spacecraft by the coordinated motion of the four sails. Considering the large dimensions of the sails, it is necessary for the solar sails to be effectively stowed before launch and then deployed in a controlled manner in space. In this paper, the mechanical design of a deployment system that can stow and deploy four independent triangular solar sails with the ability to rotate after deployment will be presented. To demonstrate the effectiveness and the feasibility of the design, a prototype has been developed and validated through theoretical analysis and experimental tests.

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