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NASA selects Rocket Lab to launch its Solar Sail System

NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (Credit: Business Wire)

Edinburgh, 8 October 2021. – Rocket Lab USA announced it has been selected to launch NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System satellite, (ACS3), on an Electron rocket.

The ACS3 technology relies on a combination of materials with different properties. Lightweight booms will deploy from a 12U CubeSat designed and built by NanoAvionics of Columbia, to support a solar sail. The sail uses the pressure of sunlight for propulsion so there is no need for any other rocket propellant.

Santa Clara University’s Robotics Systems Lab will provide CubeSat operations support for the ACS3 technology demonstration. Data obtained from the test will help designing future larger-scale composite solar sail systems. The plan is to use the technology for space weather satellites, communication relays, or near-Earth asteroid reconnaissance missions.

ACS3 will launch as part of a rideshare mission. However, as it requires a higher altitude than the other payloads, the Kick Stage will perform another burn to raise the orbit and deploy the satellite. Lift-off is scheduled for mid-2022 from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1.

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