Kapton® EN Chosen for L’Garde Solar Sail
Deploy and operate a solar sail area seven times larger than ever flown in space. As a custom developer for NASA, L’Garde was charged with developing and deploying the largest solar sail ever constructed to demonstrate the value of “propellantless propulsion” – the act of using photons from the sun to push a craft through space. In order to be successful, L’Garde needed the most stable, lightweight base material for its “Sunjammer” solar sail. The thinness of the material was extremely important because thinner material results in a lower system mass for the solar sail which is crucial to increase sail performance.
DuPont™ Kapton® polyimide film is a thin, reliable material with proven performance in aerospace.
The solution was to create a thin, light-weight base film material that could reliably perform in space. Together, DuPont Circuit & Packaging Materials and L’Garde developed DuPont™ Kapton® EN film in a unique 5 micron thick format.
Compared to alternatives that tend to react poorly in the space environment, Kapton® was found to be the most stable, yet lightest weight material for the Sunjammer solar sail. When collapsed, the Sunjammer sail will be the size of a dishwasher and weigh just 90 pounds.
L’Garde looked to collaborate with DuPont in this process due to its long history of providing aerospace performance materials in commercial quantities. DuPont was able to produce 4,860 square meters of 5 micron thick Kapton® - the equivalent of 1.2 acres - which provided enough material to build and test prototypes, as well as to construct the final flight unit.
The Sunjammer technology can potentially be used for a wide range of future space missions, including advanced space weather warning systems used to provide more timely and accurate notice of solar flare activity. The flight of the solar sail is expected to take place in late 2014.
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