The electric solar wind sail (E-sail) is a space propulsion concept that uses the natural solar wind dynamic pressure for producing spacecraft thrust. In its baseline form, the E-sail consists of a number of long, thin, conducting, and centrifugally stretched tethers, which are kept in a high positive potential by an onboard electron gun. The concept gains its efficiency from the fact that the effective sail area, i.e., the potential structure of the tethers, can be millions of times larger than the physical area of the thin tethers wires, which offsets the fact that the dynamic pressure of the solar wind is very weak. Indeed, according to the most recent published estimates, an E-sail of 1 N thrust and 100 kg mass could be built in the rather near future, providing a revolutionary level of propulsive performance (specific acceleration) for travel in the solar system. Here we give a review of the ongoing technical development work of the E-sail, covering tether construction, overall mechanical design alternatives, guidance and navigation strategies, and dynamical and orbital simulations.
2010. Vol. 81, no 11, 111301- p.