GeoSail: Exploring the magnetosphere using a low-cost solar sail
Publication date: 15 Sep 2003
Authors: Macdonald, M., et al.
Journal: ESA SP
Copyright: ESAProceedings of the Fifth IAA International Conference on Low-Cost planetary Missions
Geosail is a small, low cost, innovative mission designed to exploit the versatility of solar sail propulsion for the exploration of magnetic reconnection and electron dynamics in the earth's magnetotail. The GeoSail mission requires only a very low performance solar sail to precess the major axis of an otherwise inertially fixed orbit, thus maintaining payload alignment within the geomagnetic tail. This constant rotation enables a near continuous observation window with the opportunity to probe the rapid dynamic evolution of energetic particle distributions in this critical region of geospace. An end-to-end system design study has been concluded and the key performance requirements identified. The level of solar sail performance required for GeoSail is typical of that currently being discussed within Europe for a near-term technology demonstration mission. GeoSail is therefore capable of providing both technology validation within the cost restrictions of a SMART mission while also returning unique science data from a first solar sail mission.