Roccor touts advantages of retractable solar sails

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LOGAN, Utah – Roccor is hoping the recent success of the Planetary Society’s Lightsail 2 will bolster interest in a retractable solar sail the Longmont, Colorado, small business demonstrated at the Small Satellite Conference here.

Roccor holds an exclusive license for the Flexible Unfurlable and Refurlable Lightweight (FURL) solar sail developed and tested by the Air Force Research Laboratory. FURL extends and retracts with four booms stored around a common hub.

Small satellites can employ solar sails to control attitude, change planes or remain in their proper orbits. With FURL, a small satellite could retract the sail once it reached its destination, Dana Turse, Roccor emerging products director, told SpaceNews. “If you want to stay there for a while, you don’t need the solar sail,” she added.

The Planetary Society announced success July 31 in raising the orbit of a small satellite with a 32-square-meter solar sail.

“People are starting to take them more seriously,” Turse said. “Now that it’s being demonstrated on orbit, I think there will be a lot of interest in this type of sail.”

FURL has been tested thoroughly on the ground but has not flown in space. “It’s essentially ready to fly,” Turse said.

Roccor specializes in deployable structures, including Solar Array Deployment Systems it is supplying to one of the low Earth orbit megaconstellation developers.

In addition to marketing FURL, Roccor is working to adapt FURL technology for other deployable structures.

At the Small Satellite Conference, Roccor demonstrated FURL with seven-meter booms and a 20-meter-square solar sail.