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IKAROS becomes first spacecraft to successfully deploy solar sail in space

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June 10, 2010

IKAROS with it's solar sail successfully deployed

IKAROS with it's solar sail successfully deployed

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The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s IKAROS space yacht which launched last month has successfully unfurled its solar sail. The accomplishment marks the first time a solar sail has been successfully deployed in space.

The IKAROS (short for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) small solar sail demonstrator began to deploy its sail using centrifugal force on June 3 and on June 10, about 7.7 million km (4.8 million miles) from Earth, JAXA confirmed the proper extension of the sail, which measures 14 meters (46 ft) along each side. JAXA also confirmed power generation by the thin film solar cells attached to the sail.

The solar sail was unfurled using centrifugal force

The next step will be to verify acceleration by the cells and orbit control of the craft by using photon pressure from sunlight as it continues on its journey that will take it past Venus, before it navigates back around the Sun.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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