P. Seefeldt, B. Dachwald
Advances in Space Research (2021) 67 (9), 2688-2695
All currently considered solar sail designs require the deployment of a thin reflective membrane. This membrane is stowed using some folding technique and sometimes coiled onto a spool. The temperature of the deployed sail membrane is a critical aspect for solar sail design. Depending on the geometry of the imprinted folding lines, sunlight may be reflected inside folding lines which would locally increase the temperature of the membrane. The analysis presented here aims for a quantification of that temperature increase. Microscope images of a thick polyimide membrane reveal the geometry of folding lines for different tensioning states. In addition, the opening of folding lines are analysed with a finite-element beam model. After the determination of the geometry as a function of the tensioning state, it is analysed how many reflections may appear in a folding line depending on its opening angle for a sail that is oriented perpendicular to the Sun. Two cases are investigated, deep space and low-Earth orbit. It is shown that, even for small tensioning states, the membrane geometry does not allow more than only two reflections. Depending on the material, this can cause a slight temperature increase that also depends on the investigated case (deep space or low-Earth orbit).