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:blobwizard: Tsatnosk @zatnosk

What if solar sails was actually a fabric of hundreds of tiny modules, that each could both collect energy from radiation (starlight) and provide thrust in a single direction?

That would make it not-insane to construct spaceships that looked like marine ships with old-school sails.


(This idea is now in the commons. Feel free to use for anything)

@zatnosk I'm pretty sure that's been used in anime before, not that they need an excuse to have spaceships that look like seagoing ships.

The amount of starlight hitting a spacecraft in interstellar space is not sufficient to provide an appreciable amount of thrust. I suspect sails would end up creating more drag in the interstellar medium than the thrust they could provide from starlight.

However...

@zatnosk You could potentially do something like this for "sailing" around the solar system, using a network of solar-powered lasers in solar orbit. The biggest challenge there would be preventing the lasers from getting coopted and used as weapons.

@freakazoid Oh, but the thrust wouldn't be directly from the radiation capture, rather it would be a pure energy-based thrust, so if you were in interstellar space, you could be running a fusion or fission reactor for energy, and powering the sail with that.