CubeSail (UltraSail)

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CubeSail
Mission typeTechnology: solar sail propulsion
OperatorNASA / University of Illinois
Websitecubesail.us
and
cuaerospace.com/Technology/Space-Propulsion/UltraSail-CubeSail
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft type1.5 U CubeSat x2
ManufacturerUniversity of Illinois
Launch mass~ 3 kg
Start of mission
Launch date16 December 2018 [1]
RocketElectron
Launch siteRocket Lab LC-1
ContractorRocket Lab
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric)
RegimeLow Earth
 

CubeSail mission is a low-cost spacecraft propulsion demonstration using two identical 1.5U CubeSat satellites to deploy a 260 m-long, 20 m2 solar sail ribbon between them. This mission is a first in a series of increasingly complex demonstrations leading up to a fullscale UltraSail heliogyro by the University of Illinois and CU Aerospace.

Overview[edit]

Solar sail types. A heliogyro could have dozens of blades

The University of Illinois together with CU Aerospace designed this mission to demonstrate deployment and to measure the thrust on a 7.7 cm × 250 m membrane (about 20 m2) made of aluminized mylar. The membrane was deployed between two 1.5U CubeSats that separated from each other in low Earth orbit. It is intended as a first step towards the development of a larger (1,600 kg[2]) solar sail concept called UltraSail intended for interplanetary and interstellar missions.[3] This last consists of multiple CubeSail-like structures that extend kilometers long film blades to ultimately form a heliogyro. Each sail blade would be as long as 5 kilometres (3.1 mi).[2] In the UltraSail version, the spacecraft spins around a central hub to flatten the blades by centrifugal force, supported by tip-CubeSats. For the kilometre long blades' stability, this requires a rotational period of 1 – 2 hours so they overcome the solar pressure force by 3 to 5 times. Each blade is a thin polyimide film coated with ripstop.[2] The blades provide propulsion by radiation pressure exerted by sunlight.

The second mission of this project is called I-Sail, proposed to be launched in 2022, and it consists of a 25 kg (55 lb) spacecraft with bilateral blades with a total sail area of 2,500 m2.[4] It will demonstrate thrust levels many times those of ion thrusters used for deep space missions and perform an Earth gravity escape.[4] Several science objectives are being assessed as secondary objectives.[4]

UltraSail[edit]

Artist's concept of UlraSail. Each blade has a width of 5 – 10 m and deployed to a blade length up to 5 km with a total 100,000 m2 of sail area.[5] Blade control is enabled with a satellite (tipsat) attached to each blade tip.

UltraSail is a proposed type of robotic spacecraft that uses solar radiation for propulsion. It builds upon the Heliogyro concept by Richard H. MacNeal, published in 1971,[6][7][5] and consists of multiple rotating blades attached to a central hub. Blade material -which is the solar sail- is mounted on multiple reels, each with a width of 5 – 10 m, and deployed to a blade length up to 5 km (3.1 mi) for a total 100,000 m2 of sail area.[5][8]

Although the Heliogyro design has no mass advantage over a square sail, it remains attractive because the method of deploying large sail blades is simpler than a strut-based design.[9] Blade stiffness is achieved by spinning the spacecraft (centrifugal force) with rotational axis generally pointing at the Sun.

Control[edit]

The spacecraft's attitude (orientation), and therefore thrust direction, is controlled by changing the cyclic and collective blade pitch similar to a helicopter, but in this case blade control is initiated by small controllable mini-satellites (tipsat) at the tip of each blade.[2][10] The tipsat mass provides a stabilizing centrifugal force on the blade while in rotation. Each tipsat would be a 5-meter long carbon-fiber structure with a total mass of 50 kg, including avionics and 20 kg propellant (catalyzed nitrous oxide (N2O) and cold gas).[2] Alternatively, the tipsats could be propelled with electric microthrusters to control blade pitch.[11]

The maximum expected thrust force due to solar pressure is equivalent to 400 kW ion thruster systems used for comparable deep space missions.[11]

Launch[edit]

CubeSail was launched on an Electron launch vehicle on December 16, 2018 from New Zealand.[1][12] It was selected in 2012 by NASA to be launched as part of the ELaNa program.[13][14] Re-orientation of the CubeSats will cause the sail to undergo aerodynamic drag in the upper atmosphere for its disposal.

See also[edit]

Other solar sail spacecrat
  • IKAROS, a Japanese solar sail, launched in May 2010
  • LightSail, a controlled solar sail CubeSat to launch in 2019
  • NanoSail-D2, the successor to NanoSail-D, launched in November 2010
  • Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a solar sail CubeSat planned to launch in 2019
  • Sunjammer, a solar sail that was cancelled before launch in 2014

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Small Satellite Design and Testing Laboratory - CubeSail. University of Illinois. 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Initial development of the CubeSail UltraSail spacecraft. R. L. Burton, J. K. Laystrom-Woodard, G. F. Benavides, D. L. Carroll, V. L. Coverstone, G. R. Swenson, A. Pukniel, A. Ghosh, and A. D. Moctezuma. 27 August 2014.
  3. ^ NASA to Launch Two Small AE Satellites. Aerospace Illinois. 22 February 2012.
  4. ^ a b c I-Sail: 2500-Square-Meter Solar Sail Prototype Demonstrator. NASA SBIR 2017 Solicitation. 19 April 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Initial Development of the CubeSail/UltraSail Spacecraft. R. L. Burton, J. K. Laystrom-Woodard, G. F. Benavides, D. L. Carroll, V. L. Coverstone, G. R. Swenson, A. Pukniel, A. Ghosh, and A. D. Moctezuma. (2010)
  6. ^ MacNeal R. H., "Structural Dynamics of the Heliogyro", NASA-CR-1745A, 1971.
  7. ^ Burton, R. L., Coverstone, V. L., Hargens-Rysanek, J., Ertmer, K. M., and Botter, T., "Ultrasail-Ultra-Lightweight Solar Sail Concept," 41st AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference&Exhibit, AIAA Paper 2005-4117, 2005.
  8. ^ CubeSail Homesite. CU Aerospace. Accessed on 30 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Design & Construction". NASA JPL. Archived from the original on 2005-03-11.
  10. ^ Design Concept for a Solar Sail with Individually Controllable Elements. (PDF) Tong Luo, Ming Xu, and Qingyu Qu. Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. 2017. doi:10.2514/1.A33775
  11. ^ a b UltraSail. (PDF) R. Burton, and G. Benavides. 2003.
  12. ^ Pietrobon, Steven. "New Zealand Launch Record (2009 to present)". Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  13. ^ CubeSail]. Gunter's Space Page. 2017
  14. ^ CubeSat Launch Initiative. NASA. Upcoming ELaNa CubeSat Launches. 2018.