A Discussion Meeting on “Solar Sail Mission Applications” will be held on the morning of FRIDAY 10th MAY 2002 in the Lecture Theatre of the Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, LONDON.

The meeting will bring together world-renowned experts on this revolutionary new form of space propulsion.

Members of the press are invited to attend the meeting free of charge, although advance notice of attendance to Peter Bond, RAS press officer for space science, would be appreciated.


Space travel is generally accepted as the most expensive form of transportation ever invented. Even relatively modest missions to other worlds typically cost at least $150 million. Much of this cost involves launching the spacecraft, complete with its rocket motors and full fuel tanks, into orbit.

Yet, scientists and engineers have known for many years that there are alternatives to traditional chemical propulsion. In space, there is such a thing as a free ride – courtesy of sunlight.

Like traditional sails billowing on a tall ship, solar sails can be used to accelerate a craft across the vast expanses of near-empty space without consuming any fuel. As they strike a large sail head on, individual photons (particles) of light can deliver sufficient momentum to set a lightweight spacecraft in motion. If the solar sails are near-perfect reflectors, the momentum can be almost doubled.

Now, after decades of development, the first craft to be propelled through space by this technology are about to be launched. Once ultra-thin, lightweight solar sails become a reality, the way will be open to a wide range of exciting new mission opportunities for planetary science, Earth observation, solar and space physics.

Candidates for such opportunities include planetary sample return and high-energy comet rendezvous missions as well as delivery of payloads to unusual locations e.g. solar polar orbits and the heliopause – the boundary between the Sun’s zone of influence and interstellar space.

The RAS Discussion Meeting will act as a forum to disseminate and discuss concepts for future mission applications and to review recent progress towards in-orbit technology demonstrations.

Among the highlights of the meeting will be a presentation by Dr. Louis Friedman, Executive Director of the Planetary Society, who will be describing the privately sponsored Cosmos 1 mission which will accomplish the first solar sail flight later this year.

Other key speakers include:
§        Dr. Manfred Leipold of Kayser-Threde, who will be describing technology development efforts by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the German Aerospace Research Agency (DLR) that will soon lead to a solar sail deployment test in low Earth orbit.
§        Jim Rogan of Team Encounter LLC, who will describe a solar sail that measures 70 m by 70 m but is only one seventy-sixth the thickness of a human hair and has a total mass of just 18 kg. Team Encounter is a U.S. company based in Houston, Texas. In 2004 or soon after, the company plans to send a solar sail loaded with individual photos, messages and DNA (micro hair samples) from fee-paying customers towards interstellar space (www.teamencounter.com).

§        Thomas di Luccio of the French-based Union for the Promotion of Light Propulsion (U3P), who will speak about a CD-ROM recently produced by U3P. This comprehensive reference source contains a mass of information about solar sailing, together with a gallery of pictures and movies of solar sail tests. U3P is a non-profit organisation created in 1981 to promote photonic propulsion for the exploration and peaceful exploitation of space.
§        Gareth Hughes & Malcolm McDonald (University of Glasgow), who will be speaking about new space science mission concepts for solar sails.

The organisers of the meeting are Professor Colin McInnes, who is leading ESA-funded mission studies at the University of Glasgow, and Professor Carl Murray (Queen Mary, University of London).


09:00-09:30        Registration and coffee

Session I (Chair – C. Murray)

Solar Sail Mission Opportunities
Colin McInnes, University of Glasgow.

Solar Sail Technology Ground and In-Orbit Deployment Testing
Manfred Leipold, Kayser-Threde GmbH, Germany.

The Cosmos-1 Solar Sail Mission
Louis Friedman, The Planetary Society, USA.

GeoSail: Exploring Geospace Using a Small Solar Sail
Malcolm Macdonald, University of Glasgow.

A Novel Method for the Deployment and Support of Solar Sails and Other Tensioned Membrane Structures.
Andrew Dayton-Lovat, Rolatube Technologies Ltd, UK

11:10-11:40 Break

Session II (Chair – C. McInnes)

Light from Space: The INTAS Reference CD-ROM.
Thomas di Luccio, Union pour la Promotion de la Propulsion Photonique, France.

Team Encounter: A Deep Space Delivery System.
James Rogan, Team Encounter, L.L.C, USA.

Low Cost Mercury Orbiter and Sample Return Missions Using Solar Sail Propulsion.
Gareth Hughes, University of Glasgow

Engineering and Environmental Considerations of Solar Sailing from an Industrial Perspective.
Ronan Wall, Astrium-UK Ltd

13:00-13:20         Open Discussion


Issued by:

Peter Bond,
RAS Press Officer (Space Science).
10 Harrier Close
United Kingdom.
Tel: +44 (0)1483-268672
Fax: +44 (0)1483-274047
E-mail: PeterRBond@aol.com

RAS Web: http://www.ras.org.uk/