Rectangular solar sail flutter
Solar sail spacecraft have been proposed for extended timescale missions because of the spacecraft's ability to generate continuous propellant-less thrust. Due in part to the recent success of the JAXA IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by the Radiation of the Sun) solar sail spacecraft, there has been a renewed interest in solar sail technology. One of the design challenges facing potential solar sailors is the dynamic stability of the large membrane structures required for solar sailing. Of specific interest is the membrane structural dynamics and the coupling between the structural dynamics and the solar radi- ation force. This paper explores the coupling between a hanging membrane structure in a gravitational field and solar radiation pressure that is labeled a solarelastic coupling. The gravitationally tensioned membrane is modeled with a classical linear Rayleigh Ritz beam model and the solar radiation pressure is modeled for a perfectly reective structure. The inuence of a gravitational field is included in the structural model to explore the feasibility of designing an experiment to re-create a solarelastic instability on earth. Finally there is a discussion of the ground vibration experiments that have been conducted to validate the structural model.© 2012 AIAA.