Friday, April 30, 2010

Japan launching solar sail craft

On May 18, Japan will attempt the first test of a solar sail-propelled spacecraft beyond Earth orbit. The Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun (Ikaros) will unfurl a kite-shaped sail 14 meters in diameter. One scientist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), referring to the use of a "sail," called it a "space yacht."
COMMENT: While sailing using the pressure of sunlight offers limited power and acceleration, and has limited use beyond the neighborhood of Mars orbit, it could be valuable for probes and possibly, with much larger sails, spacecraft making bulk shipments of commodities like food and water.

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