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Solar Sail

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. Read More
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
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
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
The basis of the technology isn't new, after all we've been sailing the waters of our planet for millennia, but the launch of the Cosmos 1 spacecraft later this year will represent humankind's first attempt to sail through space. Read More