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A $4 million solar sail-powered spacecraft
Ethan Zuckerman, 26 Feb 05

A US and Russian team is preparing to launch a solar-powered spacecraft. Called Cosmos 1, the 50 kilogram craft uses eight 15-meter solar sails to propel itself without rockets. The Planetary Society plans to launch the craft on April 30th from a Russian submarine submerged beneath the Barents Sea. A Volna rocket - a converted Russian ICBM - will carry the craft into orbit, where it will unfurl its sails and begin raising its orbit.

Solar sail technology uses the momentum of photons released by the sun to propel a craft. The momentum of each photon is miniscule, and even with massive sails, the acceleration created is modest, but it is continual and constant, and solar sail-powered crafts could gradually attain huge speeds without the need for an onboard fuel supply. WorldChanging covered an earlier solar sail test last August. That test, conducted by Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, only examined the ability of a foil sail to unfold in space - the Planetary Society test is significantly more ambitious, as it will test the ability of solar sails to propel a craft.

The funding for the Planetary Society experiment - a mere $4 million - was raised from private sources. Both NASA and the European Space Agency are watching the test closely and are said to be considering solar sails for future missions.

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Comments

Annie Druyan put up a large chunk of the money needed to purchase the ex-Soviet ICBM that's going to launch this thing.

And Gregory Benford has requested time on the Goldstone telescope to fire 500KW of microwave energy at the solar sail, to see if they can move it that way.

http://www.popsci.com/popsci/aviation/article/0,20967,1018802,00.html


Posted by: Patrick Di Justo on 26 Feb 05

Annie Druyan put up a large chunk of the money needed to purchase the ex-Soviet ICBM that's going to launch this thing.

And Gregory Benford has requested time on the Goldstone telescope to fire 500KW of microwave energy at the solar sail, to see if they can move it that way.

http://www.popsci.com/popsci/aviation/article/0,20967,1018802,00.html


Posted by: Patrick Di Justo on 26 Feb 05

Here's a little more on those crraaazy Benford boys...

Reactive Paint solar sail - Mars in a Month


Posted by: Rod Edwards on 28 Feb 05



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