LunarSail - Developing and Demonstrating a Mission-Capable Solar Sail for the Interplanetary Cubesat

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LunarSail is a cubesat-based space mission established by the Aerospace Research & Engineering Systems Institute, Inc. – a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization dedicated to promoting space exploration and STEM education through hands-on educational projects and public outreach. LunarSail is designed to use a solar sail to propel a small spacecraft from Earth orbit onto a lunar orbit rendezvous trajectory and execute orbital insertion around the Moon.

LunarSail is an effort to demonstrate the ability of a spacecraft under solar sail propulsion to navigate itself into a lunar trajectory and insert itself into Lunar orbit. A primary objective of the LunarSail mission is to serve as a testbed for cubesat operations beyond low Earth orbit and applications requiring cislunar or interplanetary rendezvous. It is a proposed cubesat mission intended to demonstrate practical application of solar sail technology for propulsion, trajectory/attitude control and rendezvous with another body in space. With LunarSail, we will take advantage of the cubesat platform to conduct a first of its kind mission to use a solar sail to send a spacecraft to the Moon and then utilize the sail’s unique characteristics to navigate into lunar orbit.

To date, we have procured the spacecraft's primary computer system and are in early development of it's command and control software. We have also procured and built several desktop Windows and Linux PC's for use in software development, prototyping and mission planning. The Windows machines have been outfitted with Matlab, LabView and Adobe Creative Suite. We are working on getting Autocad as well.

We are in the process of assembling a prototype spacecraft structure in which we will integrate the computer system and prototype sail boom assembly so that we will be able to commence testing in the latter half of 2013. These activities are currently being undertaken at our organization's main office in Titusville, FL. but we will be seeking more spacious lab space within the next few months.

We plan to integrate social media outreach into the mission, in particular once the spacecraft is in space. In addition to radio, cameras and telemetry, we will use social media as another means of communicating to and from the spacecraft. We are inviting creative people and the public to submit messages, artwork, music and short video clips that will be stored onboard the spacecraft in a reserved area of computer memory storage.

During the transit to lunar orbit, LunarSail will periodically send out status updates and messages via social media – some will be automated and some commanded from the ground. After it enters lunar orbit, LunarSail will transmit the messages, graphics and video that have been stored on it back to Earth, for anyone and everyone to see and hear as long as they can pick up the signal from the spacecraft. Additionally, the items will be transmitted via social networks and displayed on the LunarSail website with attribution and captioning.

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  • Name:
    Matthew Travis
  • Type of entry:
  • Profession:
    Business Owner/Manager
  • Number of times previously entering contest:
  • Matthew's favorite design and analysis tools:
    ATK, Matlab, LabView
  • For managing CAD data Matthew's company uses:
    SolidWorks PDMWorks
  • Matthew's hobbies and activities:
    spacecraft design, propulsion system design
  • Matthew belongs to these online communities:
    Florida Space Development Council, ARES Institute
  • Matthew is inspired by:
    A desire to build the tools to take humanity off Earth and create a spacefaring civilization
  • Patent status: