Mathematical Problems in Engineering
Volume 2009 (2009), Article ID 537256, 11 pages
Research Article

Orbital Dynamics of a Simple Solar Photon Thruster

1University of Beira Interior, 6201-001 Covilhã, Portugal
2University of Porto, 4169-007 Porto, Portugal
3Aeronautical Institute of Technology, 12.228-900 Sao José dos Campos, Brazil

Received 29 July 2009; Accepted 13 November 2009

Academic Editor: Maria Zanardi

Copyright © 2009 Anna D. Guerman et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We study orbital dynamics of a compound solar sail, namely, a Simple Solar Photon Thruster and compare its behavior to that of a common version of sailcraft. To perform this analysis, development of a mathematical model for force created by light reflection on all sailcraft elements is essential. We deduce the equations of sailcraft's motion and compare performance of two schemes of solar propulsion for two test time-optimal control problems of trajectory transfer.