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Old August 29 2012, 08:30 AM   #264
RPJOB
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Re: The operational status of NCC 1701-A...?

The pint is that a solar sail doesn't generate power. It could be used as a mirror to concentrate sunlight onto a solar panel but a solar sail is just a very large, very thin reflector.

"There has been some theoretical speculation about using molecular manufacturing techniques to create advanced, strong, hyper-light sail material, based on nanotube mesh weaves, where the weave "spaces" are less than half the wavelength of light impinging on the sail. While such materials have so far only been produced in laboratory conditions, and the means for manufacturing such material on an industrial scale are not yet available, such materials could mass less than 0.1 g/mē,[27] making them lighter than any current sail material by a factor of at least 30. For comparison, 5 micrometre thick Mylar sail material mass 7 g/mē, aluminized Kapton films have a mass as much as 12 g/mē,[21] and Energy Science Laboratories' new carbon fiber material masses 3 g/mē.[26]"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_sail#Materials

A solar sail is going to produce no power on it's own. Regardless of the improper terminology, a solar sail big enough to move a starship would be many, many kilometers on a side. That's also based on the reflectivity of the material. A makeshift sail would hardly be optimal. Also, the strength of the solar wind of the star. It may move them close to a habitable planet in the system so the escape pods can land, but unless it was already very close the time would be on the order of weeks or months even with a huge sail. Hardly something that's would be usable when you don't even have enough power to run the lights.
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