Columbia Aerospace saw its shares fall by more than 3% after a leaked internal memo from the Xiao Chu corporation suggested it had succeeded in developing an economic process for producing solar sails. Market speculation about a four-way-deal to provide solar-sail-craft to Mars Interplanetary put further pressure on shares after it arose that the leak coincided with a joint meeting of the heads of the major Chinese off-world corporations including Xiao Chu, MAST and Mars Interplanetary. The meeting was organised by their majority shareholder the Chinese government.
With conceptual designs dating back into the twentieth century Solar Sail craft have long bore the promise of providing free passage to the planets. Sailing the photonic wind from the sun Solar Sail craft get their propulsion for free. With no fuel requirements and very low power requirements the utility of sail-craft is undeniable. What has always held them back has been the huge cost of the manufacturing process that must produce thousands of square miles of incredibly thin sail material. If Xiao Chu have finally succeeded in reducing the cost of sail production then a new "age-of-sail" could be about to dawn on the solar system.
A spokes-person for Xiao Chu confirmed that one of its research teams was working on Solar Sail technologies but that it would be "premature" to comment on particular breakthroughs.
A spokes-sapient from Jane's space-craft had this to say: "The goal of solar sail design for many years has been to reduce the thickness of the sail material whilst retaining its strength and with the added challenge of reducing its cost. There have been many candidate materials proposed to reduce the thickness and mass of sail material, but all known candidates increased the cost."
"MAST, along with other drive-manufacturers have kept one eye, and apparently a few researchers, looking at solar-sail materials technology. The industry goal has been to reduce the mass by a factor of ten and the cost by a factor of 50. If Xiao Chu have 'squared the circle' on this then the market is right to be worried. Achieving even a moderate price breakthrough would create an adverse market for existing drives and the possibility of a price war."
Our industry correspondent had this to say: "This is nothing new, we have seen space-drive technology advance rapidly over the 21st century and we are overdue for a breakthrough. What is unexpected is that the breakthrough should come from one of the oldest ideas. Though looking at the speed of materials technology advancement, the ease of prototyping with 3d printers, and the nanotechnology revolution we should not be particularly surprised at any one breakthrough. What this possible breakthrough proves, on one of the oldest problems, is that there is nothing new under the sun!".
Transhuman Space Index