Controlling the kinetic moment of the solar sail by changing of the reflectivity of its surface

Dynamics, ballistics, movement control of flying vehicles


Makarenkova N. A.




In the article, the management of a solar sail, which uses the pressure of sunlight to move, is considered. It is a promising spacecraft, since it does not require the consumption of rocket fuel. This is especially important in the case of long missions. To achieve the required orbits, it is necessary to periodically change the orientation of the sail according to the specified program. Therefore, the problem of controlling the spatial rotation of the solar sail without the expense of the working fluid is especially important and relevant. The solar sail, represented in the form of a thin rotating mirror film attached to a cylindrical rigid insert, is considered. The flywheel is introduced to compensate the kinetic moment of the system “rigid ins ert – film”. In this case, the reorientation of the spacecraft is possible due to a change in the angle between the vectors of the kinetic moments of the structural elements. The solar sail will rotate about an axis that coincides with the sum of these vectors. In this case, the design in which the kinetic moments of the flywheel and the system “rigid insert – film” are equal in absolute val ue, is most preferable. In this case, any desired turn can be reported to the solar sail for an arbitrarily small change in the angle between the vectors of the kinetic moments of the elements of the structure, and therefore for arbitrarily small energy expenditure. In this case, the instrument compartment can occupy a fixed spatial position after reorientation. The imbalance of the vectors of the flywheel kinetic moments and the “rigid insert–film” system will inevitably arise during the long-term operation of the solar sail in orbit. This will lead to unwanted rotation of the instrument compartment. It is proposed to use a change in the reflectivity of the film as an external control action. The algorithm for controlling the solar sail, which allows it to be reoriented to the required angle, has been developed. It is established that in comparison with the spatial rotation only due to the forces of sunlight pressure, the control time has decreased more than twice, and the energy consumption has decreased by 4.5 times. The algorithm that allows to eliminate the imbalance of the vectors of the kinetic moments of the “rigid insert–film” system and the flywheel, is also developed.


solar sail, kinetic moment, the control of a spacecraft, reflectivity, accumulation of energy


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