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Weekly Space Hangout

Apr 15, 2022

Tonight we are very excited to welcome Amber Dubill from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory to the WSH. Amber has worked on both IMAP and DART, and also has a keen interest in advanced solar sail design concepts.

Solar sails have long been theorized as being a viable means of spacecraft propulsion — eventually — and we do seem to be moving closer to their being a reality… In June 2019, the Planetary Society succesfully launched their crowdfunded, proof-of-concept LightSail 2, and it is still going strong! In fact, you can check on its current status here.

Meanwhile, in Rochester NY, Dr. Grover Swartzlander from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) was developing a new approach to solar sail design - one that could potentially allow spacecraft to photograph the poles of the sun for the first time! In April 2019 RIT and Dr. Swartzlander were awarded a 2019 NIAC Phase 2 award to explore the feasibility of diffractive solar sails!

As a mechanical engineering student at RIT, Amber worked closely with Dr. Swartzlander on the diffractive solar sail design, and their collaboration continues today.

Amber started her experience on low cost, high risk CubeSats space at RIT as a student and at NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC). This evolved into research on advanced technology concepts for spacecraft. She has developed expertise in the use of solar sailing, and has become a champion for diffractive solar sailing through collaboration on NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts.

She continues working to further develop diffractive solar sailing technology: a new type of massless, infinite propulsion, that will enable spacecraft to sail around our Sun and view it like never before. To stay up to date with Amber's research, follow her on LinkedIn as well as on Facebook.

You can learn more about Amber's and Dr. Swartzlander's collaboration in this podcast. You can read more about the NIAC Phase II award for RIT here.


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