Bernd Dachwald, Wolfgang Seboldt
Multiple Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous and Sample Return Using First Generation Solar Sailcraft
Acta Astronautica, Vol. 57, No. 11, 2005, pp. 864-875


Due to their high ΔV -capability, solar sailcraft are especially capable to perform multiple rendezvous and sample return missions to near-Earth asteroids. Even with moderate-performance solar sails of the first generation, challenging scientific missions are feasible. It is shown that a 300 kg-spacecraft (including a lander and a sample return capsule), propelled by a (70 m)2 solar sail with an additional mass of about 110 kg (specific mass 23 g/m2), is capable to return a sample from a near-Earth asteroid to Earth within 10 years from launch. In another scenario, a solar sail of the same size and mass is capable to propel a 75 kg-spacecraft to rendezvous three near-Earth asteroids subsequently within 7.6 years from launch (including about 200 days of operations at each asteroid). A larger solar sail of about (140 m)2 would even be capable to transport a spacecraft that returns samples from all three visited near-Earth asteroids to Earth within about 10 years from launch.