solar sail n.

a surface designed to utilize the pressure of solar radiation to provide the propulsive force for a spacecraft to which it is attached


  • 1958 Manchester Evening News 20 Sept. 6/3

    [quoting an unnamed scientist:] Striking the aluminium side of a large solar sail, the rays would cause it to accelerate. A manned vehicle attached to the sails by lines would be capable of going to any point in the solar system.

  • 1960 Aeroplane 99 693/1

    Another interesting concept which has not yet really undergone feasibility determination is that of the solar sail. With this device, a space ‘ship’ may some day be able literally to sail through interplanetary space.

  • 1993 K. S. Robinson Green Mars (new ed.) 135 Kim Stanley Robinson

    The material of the two silicate asteroids was transformed by their robot crews into sheets of solar sail material.

  • 1998 D. Brin Heaven’s Reach 72 David Brin

    The image you see is caused by a tremendous reflector-and-energy-collector…a solar sail.

  • 1998 Interzone July 20/1

    Time meant nothing to the bioprobes' dreamless minds, chilled almost to coma in the payload of the immense solar sail.

  • 2012 J. Sanford Heaven’s Touch in Asimov’s Science Fiction Aug. 27 page image Jason Sanford bibliography

    My hopes die when I look at the collapsed solar sail—during the crash, one of the ship’s structural beams impaled it.

Research requirements

antedating 1958

Earliest cite

Manchester Evening News

Research History
Simon Koppel submitted a 1958 cite from the Manchester Evening News.

Last modified 2021-04-02 14:52:37
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.