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Solar Sail

— Aircraft

NASA investigates sending CubeSats to Phobos and back

By - April 3, 2012 6 Pictures
NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts Program provides funding to study a small number of highly advanced spaceflight concepts, with the goal of understanding the technological possibilities which will guide the development of future space missions. Under this program, a JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) researcher has proposed the use of a pair of CubeSats for an autonomous mission to retrieve samples from Phobos, Mars' larger moon. Read More
— Aircraft

NASA to demonstrate largest-ever solar sail in space

By - September 28, 2011 2 Pictures
NASA's upcoming Technology Demonstration Missions are intended to "transform its space communications, deep space navigation and in-space propulsion capabilities." Three project proposals have been selected for these missions, which should be launching in 2015 and 2016. One of those projects, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, we've told you about already. Another, however, will be demonstrating a mission-capable solar sail. While NASA has recently tested a solar sail measuring 100 square feet (9.29 square meters), this one will be the largest ever flown, spanning a whopping 15,543 square feet, or 1,444 square meters. Read More
— Space

Turn of fortune for NASA as solar sail successfully deploys

By - January 24, 2011 2 Pictures
What looked like a failed mission has turned into an unexpected win for NASA with the successful deployment of the first-ever solar sail in low-Earth orbit. More than a month after the NanoSail-D nanosatellite failed to eject from its parent satellite, engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center were pleasantly surprised when the 3.9 x 3.9 x 14.9-inch unit spontaneously separated from the Fast Affordable Scientific and Technology Satellite (FASTSAT) last week. On January 20, after a timed three-day countdown, the ultra-thin, 100-square-foot polymer sail carried by the nanosatellite was unfurled 650 km above Earth where it will remain in orbit for up to 120 days. Read More
— Space

Data clipper could set sail for space

By - September 23, 2010 1 Picture
There's a new kind of spaceship on the horizon. No, it's not a cruise ship (we wish!) – it's a clipper, and if Joel Poncy and his team at Thales Alenia Space have their way, it's coming to a solar system near you. The data clipper will be a maneuverable solar-powered spacecraft that collects scientific data and downloads it to Earth, and fleets of them could map the planets and celestial bodies of our solar system. Read More
— Aircraft

First solar powered spacecraft successfully launched

By - May 21, 2010 5 Pictures
Although the idea of a solar sail was first proposed some 100 years ago, to date none has been successfully used in space as a primary means of propulsion. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is looking to change all that with its IKAROS project – not a misspelling of Icarus, rather an abbreviation of Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun. Launched today aboard the H-IIA Launch Vehicle (H-IIA F17), IKAROS is a space yacht that gathers energy for propulsion from sunlight pressure (photons) by means of a square membrane measuring 20 meters (65.6 ft) diagonally. Read More
— Science

Electric solar sail moves closer to reality

By - April 15, 2008 4 Pictures
April 16, 2008 It's a striking image made popular in sci-fi classics like the recent Star Wars films - a spacecraft hurtles through the galaxy propelled by gigantic reflective sails that use of solar radiation in place of on-board fuel . Space organizations around the world including NASA are pursuing this technology, but a rapidly evolving project from the Finnish Meteorological Institute has taken a radically different approach by using long metallic tethers and a solar-powered electron gun to create an "electric sail" that looks very different from the depictions of pressure sails with which we have become familiar. Read More
— Aircraft

Countdown to the launch of solar sailed spacecraft

By - June 18, 2005 8 Pictures
June 19, 2005 If you feel like being part of an ambitious scientific adventure over the next few days, spend a few minutes at the Planetary Society web site watching the lead up to the launch on June 21 of the first solar sail spacecraft, Cosmos 1. Solar sails power a spacecraft by the pressure of light particles from the Sun –there is no engine. This technology enables the spacecraft to keep accelerating over almost unlimited distances, and is the only technology now in existence that might one day take us to the stars. It’s not government funded but sponsored by Cosmos Studios, and supported by Members of The Planetary Society from all over the world. The spacecraft will be launched from a submerged Russian submarine in the Barents Sea and carried into orbit in a converted ICBM left over from the old Soviet arsenal. The aim of the mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of Solar Sail flight. There’s a live blog counting down the happenings and preparation all over the world for this momentous event and it is indeed very exciting stuff. The Planetary Society is the largest non-profit, non-governmental space advocacy group on Earth and we wish it the very best of luck in this grand endeavour. Read More
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