Researching the potential of solar sail technology for use in the exploration, prospecting, and mining of asteroids.
The commercial viability of asteroid mining will depend heavily on the economy of their access. Novel propulsion methods must be explored to aid in the economical survey of these many bodies, minimizing the cost of their assay. Solar sail technology potentially represents one of the most economical forms of in-space propulsion. Solar sails use the radiation pressure exerted by sunlight to move through space. Since the need for fuel is minimized, this results in cost savings due to the reduced weight of the spacecraft.
Solar Regatta would seek deployment of a modest scale spacecraft to a series of accessible near earth asteroids serving as a solar sail technology demonstrator, supported by its potential as a science platform. We aim to begin our research for this project by analyzing the publicly available details for both active and proposed asteroid prospecting missions. Through this research, we can begin to engineer various open source inventions, starting with the solar sail propulsion subsystem and then the instrument designs. Additionally, we will very soon be announcing a trajectory optimization challenge that will directly be related to this mission, so stay tuned!