Structural dynamics of spin-stabilized solar sails with applications to UltraSail

Thierry Botter, Victoria L. Coverstone, Rodney L. Burton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The sail dynamics of spin-stabilized solar sail designs are examined in this paper. The nonlinear governing equations of motion are derived for four different and progressively more complex dynamical scenarios: pitch (one dimensional); pitch and sweepback (two dimensional); pitch and lead/lag (two dimensional); and pitch, sweepback, and lead/lag (three dimensional). These equations are applied to UltraSail, a novel solar sail design developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which relies on small-tip satellites to provide tension in rectangular sails. Steady-state and time-dependent characteristics are numerically calculated and discussed. Properties such as the spacecraft acceleration are predicted, and transient sail responses to an applied perturbation are simulated. Results place UltraSail as a strong candidate for future solar sail missions with performance challenging previously proposed concepts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)402-413
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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