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The tech we need for Deep Space exploration

Solar sails

Solar sails could be used to get rid of space trash, as well as for long-term space missions. Image credit: Nasa

Deep space navigation using less propellent is one thing, but a tech demo of a solar sail back in 2011 promised not only to clean up space trash orbiting Earth, but warn us of incoming solar storms. A solar sail demonstration mission, mooted by Nasa back in 2011, would gather enough electric energy from its 38m x 38m solar sail for a propellant-less thrust towards distant stars.

Its dwarfs Japan's 14m x 14m IKAROS, which sailed all the way to Venus in 2010. Nicknamed Sunjammer, the technology could also be integrated into satellites to help them de-orbit once defunct. Nasa's NanoSail-D – a nano-satellite fitted with a solar sail designed to bring down decommissioned satellites and space debris – spent 240 days in low-Earth orbit in 2011.

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),