Solar Sails: The Future of Space Travel

Type of Resource



Working as if they were engineers, students design and construct model solar sails made of aluminum foil to move cardboard tube satellites through “space” on a string. Working in teams, they follow the engineering design thinking steps—empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, redesign—to design and test small-scale solar sails for satellites and space probes. During the process, learn about Newton’s laws of motion and the transfer of energy from wave energy to mechanical energy. A student act

Performance Expectations

MS-PS4-2   Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.

MS-ETS1-4   Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.