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Book Review: Solar Sails – A Novel Approach To Interplanetary Travel

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Wed Dec 17, 2008 10:58 am
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Solar Sails, written by Giovanni Vulpetti, Les Johnson and Gregory L. Matloff, describes a new space propulsion technology: the solar sail.

The book is divided into four major parts; the first three are directed towards non-engineers with formulas kept to a minimum, the language here is for entry-level space readers. The last part is slightly more advanced, aimed towards students of engineering and people with a more technical mind.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51DaGSdNyJL._SL500_AA240_.jpgThe first part is an introduction and gives a historical review of rocketry, the necessary propulsion, rocket and non-rocket and lastly (ship) sailing. It mentions the different points in a kind of note form. If you need more background then additional sources and books are listed at the end of each chapter. There are also info boxes for technical terms and facts, these describe them in more detail.

The second part of the book then starts with the book topic: solar sails. It describes first the basics and then looks into actual flight options near, mid and long-term. The content is up-to-date as the book was finished in mid 2007. Also discussed is particle-beam sailing: using lasers or microwaves instead of solar light.

The third part focuses on the praxis. It describes how sails are manufactured, how sailcrafts can and have already been built for example Cosmos-2, the solar sailcraft which was a victim of a launch failure. Deployment and stabilization techniques are covered here as well.

The final part then as already mentioned raises the reading level a bit. First handled are stars with their light, special attention is given to our sun. The main focus of this part is trajectories for sailcrafts, due to the constant propulsion non-Keplerian orbits are possible for example. The last chapter finally describes the impacts of space environment on sails.

Space Fellowship’s opinion:

http://spacefellowship.com/uploads/thumbs.pngSomeone who expects a detailed technical handbook for solar sails would be looking in the wrong place here. The book targets a broad audience who would be interested in an introduction to a new technology, in this case solar sailing. The book is easy to understand, sometimes one wished for a bit more depth but each chapter is concluded with sources and reading lists for those interested in more.
It’s a good choice for someone looking at a new technology and offers a modest price tag.

You can order Solar Sails at amazon.com

Space Fellowship thanks Springer-Praxis and the authors of the book for their support.

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