Solar sails are made of material 40 to 100 times thinner than a piece of paper, and therefore very light, though some are as long as a football field. Much like a sail on a boat can be affected by the slightest wind, the solar sails will use solar photons to push it out through space. Photons bouncing off reflective material act like wind and give enough thrust to send a craft through through the cosmos.
Sunlight is the key to making solar sails work. The sails are very thin, mirror-like surfaces. Photons in the sun’s light stream toward the sail and bounce off of it transferring just a fraction of their momentum to the solar sail. This momentum exchange causes the sail to be pushed in the opposite direction. A solar sail will constantly accelerate as long as photons are able to bounce off of it, giving the sail an infinite speed limit.
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