It’s time to start a new 3D spaceship, and, this time, it is going to have a solar sail. Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about solar sails. So, it’s off to Wikipedia to learn about them. The picture below is from the Wikipedia solar sail page.
Apparently, the highest thrust-to-mass designs for deployable structures are square sails with the masts and guy lines on the dark side of the sail. Usually there are four masts that spread the corners of the sail, and a mast in the center to hold guy-wires. One of the largest advantages is that there are no hot spots in the rigging from wrinkling or bagging, and the sail protects the structure from the Sun. This form can therefore go close to the Sun for maximum thrust. Most designs steer with small moving sails on the ends of the spars. Like this other picture from the Wikipedia page.
This image is in the public domain because it was solely created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that ‘NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted.’
I was surprised to read this. Based on my experience of sails here on Earth, I had expected a solar sail to be a kind of bag with strings pulling the spaceship along, but it is actually a flat sheet on a pole, pushing the spaceship along.
Ring sails are another option. They’re panels attached to the edge of a rotating spacecraft. The panels would have slight gaps, about one to five percent of the total area. Lines would connect the edge of one sail to the other. This might be an attractive sail design for large manned structures. The inner ring, in particular, might be made to have artificial gravity roughly equal to the gravity on the surface of Mars.
These are just some basic ideas on using solar sails to get from start to star. This blog goes into a lot more, and fascinating, detail as it describers the spaceship from Avatar. I’ve decided to have a circular sail, and have dual command modules on rotating spars, making this a very ‘hard science’ type of spaceship. Here’s the first render. The first of many.