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Proceedings Paper

A novel experimental mechanics method for measuring the light pressure acting on a solar sail membrane
Author(s): Aiming Shi; Li Jiang; Earl H. Dowell; Zhixuan Qin
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Paper Abstract

Solar sail is a high potential ‘sailing craft’ for interstellar exploration. The area of the first flight solar sail demonstrator named “IKAROS” is 200 square meters. Future interplanetary missions will require solar sails at least on the order of 10000 square meters (or larger). Due to the limitation of ground facilities, the size of experimental sample should not be large. Furthermore the ground experiments have to be conducted in gravitational field, so the gravity effect must be considered in a ground test. To obtain insight into the solar sail membrane dynamics, a key membrane flutter (or limit cycle oscillations) experiment with light forces acting on it must be done. But one big challenge is calibrating such a tiny light force by as a function of the input power. In this paper, a gravity-based measuring method for light pressure acting on membrane is presented. To explain the experimental principle, an ideal example of a laser beam with expanders and a metal film is studied. Based on calculations, this experimental mechanics method for calibrating light pressure with an accuracy of 0.01 micro-Newton may be realized by making the light force balance the gravity force on the metal films. This gravity-based measuring method could not only be applied to study the dynamics characteristics of solar sail membrane structure with different light forces, but could also be used to determine more accurate light forces/loads acting on solar sail films and hence to enhance the determination of the mechanical properties of the solar sail membrane structure.

Paper Details

Date Published: 28 February 2017
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 10256, Second International Conference on Photonics and Optical Engineering, 1025649 (28 February 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2258160
Show Author Affiliations
Aiming Shi, Northwestern Polytechnical Univ. (China)
Li Jiang, Northwestern Polytechnical Univ. (China)
Earl H. Dowell, Duke Univ. (United States)
Zhixuan Qin, Northwestern Polytechnical Univ. (China)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10256:
Second International Conference on Photonics and Optical Engineering
Chunmin Zhang; Anand Asundi, Editor(s)

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