Modeling Solar Sails (Jr IS guest blog post by Nate Smith)

Solar sails utilize the change in momentum of photons as a means of propulsion. This allows spacecraft with solar sails to significantly reduce their mass, since they do not have to carry onboard fuel (in comparison to traditional rocket-based spacecraft). This project aims at designing a program to display the dynamics of a solar-sail-based spacecraft in the presence the Sun and Earth.

Depending on the orientation of the sail, it is possible to sail towards or away from the Sun and achieve a variety of orbits. The video shown above displays the program, with the Sun in red, the Earth in blue, the sail in white, the sail’s previous position in purple, and the sail’s position with respect to the Sun in yellow.

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