Lightsail | Structure

Building a skeleton structure that will be able to hold the sail in shape during launch, be resilient to the interaction with the interstellar medium and potentially be able to modify the shape of the sail, is a major challenge given the gram-scale mass constraint. There are a number of composite graphene-based materials that are being considered. These materials change their length depending on the voltage applied across them. There are also various other materials that could be engineered to meet mission requirements. This challenge is the primary argument for ‘replacing structure with spin’: it has already ben demonstrated that centripetal acceleration of tiny tip masses can pull the sail flat.

Comments (40)

  1. Breakthrough Initiatives:

    RE:
    Apr 19, 2017 14:08michael.million@sky.com Posted on: Centauri Dreams

    Answer:
    Slowing the sail down would be extremely difficult in practice (more difficult in many ways than the original Starshot mission concept). It may be possible farther out in the future with different technology.

    – Zac Manchester, Breakthrough Initiatives

  2. Breakthrough Initiatives:

    RE:
    Apr 21, 2017 12:50michael.million@sky.com Posted on: Breakthrough Initiatives

    Answer:
    Slowing down the sail is not really practical from an engineering standpoint, even with exotic materials like graphene.

    – Zac Manchester, Breakthrough Initiatives

  3. Breakthrough Initiatives:

    RE:
    Apr 28, 2017 09:21 michael.million@sky.com Posted on: Centauri Dreams

    Answer:
    That’s very cool. We’re looking into a wide range of lightweight highly reflective materials, including metamaterials.

    – Zac Manchester, Breakthrough Initiatives

  4. Breakthrough Initiatives:

    RE:
    Apr 28, 2017 09:43 michael.million@sky.com Posted on: Centauri Dreams

    Answer:
    Very cool. Some kind of steerable mirror like this will probably be necessary to make the communication system work.

    – Zac Manchester, Breakthrough Initiatives

  5. Breakthrough Initiatives:

    RE:
    Apr 29, 2017 10:36 michael.million@sky.com Posted on: Centauri Dreams

    Answer:
    We’re looking into a variety of methods for integrating electronics onto the sail, including various ways of printing or patterning electronics directly on the sail material.

    – Zac Manchester, Breakthrough Initiatives

  6. Breakthrough Initiatives:

    RE:
    Jun 11, 2017 17:24 Robert Clark Posted on: Centauri Dreams

    Answer:
    That’s very cool. We’re looking into many different materials for the sail. It’s likely that new kinds of engineered materials will have to be developed.

    – Zac Manchester, Breakthrough Initiatives

  7. Literarian@live.com:

    Would a synthesized nanotubule such as Carbon be a viable skeletal structure?

  8. Breakthrough Initiatives:

    Reply:
    Carbon materials are relevant for such structures.

  9. Breakthrough Initiatives:

    Reply:

    The sail's structural support will be an important component of its design. Just like the sail itself, the optical properties of the support structure will be important to keep in mind to avoid excessive heating of the sail. The structure will also be intimately linked with the fabrication of the sail material. At this point it is not yet clear how the support structure will be incorporated into the sail. Given the strength and stiffness of carbon nanotubes, they may indeed prove useful, but advances in our understanding of the sail material itself will be required to know for sure. For a recent discussion see https://www.nature.com/articles/s41563-018-0075-8

    - John Forbes and Avi Loeb (Harvard), Breakthrough Starshot

  10. Alejandro Baranek:

    I'm working with a novel geometry method for some years I called qbotics.
    I think qbotics' based technologies could be really useful for the lightsail structures as a whole: structures itself, the packing, shape reconfiguration, resilency, propulsion, etc .
    In the long term, I'm thinking of qbotics as a lightweight autoassembly robotics.
    You can see some visualizations, concepts and ideas based on qbotics here:
    qbotics.tumblr.com
    pass: artistarco

    Best, Ale.
    Im attaching a pair of photos of qbotics structures, but have whole families of objects with specific properties like structural integrity, arbitrary 3d spaces containment. and much more not yet characterized.

    Alejandro Baranek

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