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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The system is somewhat similar to a solar sail. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, 12 Jan. 2023 This summer, Japan's golden solar sail unfurled in space, becoming the first successful mission to sail on the physical pressure of the sun's radiation. Andrew Moseman, Discover Magazine, 6 Dec. 2010 Slated for launch in 2017, the full-size 124-foot-wide version will be the largest orbiting solar sail ever, employing 13,000 square feet of thin Kapton film to harness the weak but constant force of solar photons. Ernie Mastroianni, Discover Magazine, 28 Aug. 2014 One beautiful example: a solar sail, called LightSail-1, being built by the Planetary Society. Corey S Powell, Discover Magazine, 18 July 2014 Also in the clear: a solar sail demo targeting an asteroid. Dallas News, 26 Aug. 2022 The Canadian Space Agency has suggested the use of a solar sail to do most of the work, rather than using thruster fuel. David Rothery, Discover Magazine, 29 Sep. 2017 Also tucked away on Artemis-1 will be NEA Scout, an innovative spacecraft that will use a solar sail to maneuver to a near-Earth asteroid using only sunshine as its propellant. Corey S. Powell, Discover Magazine, 1 Jan. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'solar sail.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1958, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of solar sail was in 1958

Dictionary Entries Near solar sail

Cite this Entry

“Solar sail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!