solar sail


Definition of solar sail 

: a propulsive device for a spacecraft that consists of a flat material (such as aluminized plastic) designed to receive thrust from solar radiation pressure

Examples of solar sail in a Sentence

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So what we're left with is primarily the challenge of building the material that will reflect light from the solar sail. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "The material science of building a light sail to take us to Alpha Centauri," 7 May 2018 And, based on how deeply those particles penetrate into other materials, there's a good chance that the hydrogen and helium will pass straight through the solar sail. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "The material science of building a light sail to take us to Alpha Centauri," 7 May 2018 The solution, perhaps, will rely on the principle of solar sails. Ryan P. Smith, Smithsonian, "The Real Science Behind Your Favorite Nerd Culture at Awesome Con," 5 Apr. 2018 If this test is successful, solar sail technology could be deployed on future missions as low-cost, propellant-free propulsion to explore planets and moons in our Solar System. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Here’s the spaceflight stuff we’re most anticipating in 2018," 5 Jan. 2018 There are other proposals for getting rid of space junk, like attaching giant tethers to them and sending them careening into the atmosphere, targeted air puffs that induce drag, and solar sails. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "China Proposes Orbiting Laser to Combat Space Junk," 20 Feb. 2018 An electric solar wind sail is nothing like a traditional solar sail, which is a large reflective surface that is propelled when hit by photons, either from the sun's light or from an artificial source such as a laser. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Finnish Scientists Push for 50 Nano-Spacecraft to Explore 300 Asteroids," 19 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'solar sail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of solar sail

1958, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of solar sail was in 1958

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exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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