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Gama Alpha – Solar Sail mission

Gama launches its Gama Alpha solar sail mission

Gama, a French aerospace company, announces the launch of its first solar sail to space, with the support of the CNES and private companies including CMA CGM, a global player in sea, land, air, and logistics solutions.

After two years of research and rapid development, the satellite containing the solar sail was successfully placed in orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9, on the 3rd of January 2023.

A solar sail uses only sunlight for propulsion, removing the need to carry fuel and opening new scientific and commercial possibilities in our solar system and beyond. The Gama Alpha mission aims to test the deployment and control of the sail, a decisive step for the democratization of this new means of space propulsion.

The Solar Sail: a revolutionary means of propulsion

Solar sails rely on photonic propulsion, using the pressure produced by photons when they bounce off a reflective surface. The force is weak, but when applied to a large surface and in the void of space, allows the spacecraft to continuously accelerate.

With continuous acceleration, a solar sail could theoretically become the fastest spacecraft made by humans. Similar to maritime sailing, it is the position of the sail in relation to the Sun’s rays that will determine the trajectory of the craft. And as with a conventional sail, it is therefore possible to move away from the Sun but also to get closer by sailing “upwind”.

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