A statite (a portmanteau of static and satellite) is a hypothetical type of artificial satellite that employs a solar sail to continuously modify its orbit in ways that gravity alone would not allow. Typically, a statite would use the solar sail to "hover" in a location that would not otherwise be available as a stable geosynchronous orbit. Statites have been proposed that would remain in fixed locations high over Earth's poles, using reflected sunlight to counteract the gravity pulling them down. Statites might also employ their sails to change the shape or velocity of more conventional orbits, depending upon the purpose of the particular statite.
The concept of the statite was invented independently (and approximately simultaneously) by Robert L. Forward (who coined the term "statite"), and by Colin McInnes, who used the term "halo orbit" (not to be confused with the type of halo orbit invented by Robert Farquhar). Subsequently the terms "non-Keplerian orbit" and "artificial Lagrange point" have been used as a generalization of the above terms.
No statites have been deployed to date, as solar sail technology is still in its infancy. NASA's Sunjammer solar sail mission has the stated objective of flying to an artificial Lagrange point near the Earth/Sun L1 point, to demonstrate the feasibility of the Geostorm geomagnetic storm warning mission concept proposed by NOAA's Patricia Mulligan.
- US patent 5183225, Robert L. Forward & Forward, "Statite: Spacecraft That Utilizes Light Pressure and Method of Use", issued 1993-02-02
- McInnes, C. R. and Simmons, J. F. L.: "Halo Orbits for Solar Sails --- Dynamics and Applications," ESA Journal, Vol. 13, 1989, pp.229-234
- Mulligan, Patricia (August 1998). "Solar Sails for the Operational Space Community". Spaceviews 8 (3-4).
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