NASA tests solar sail technology

I think not
(CNN) -- A solar sail that scientists believe could power missions into deep space has passed its first major test.

A 20-meter square sail was deployed and its orientation controlled in a vacuum chamber designed to mimic space at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio, developers ATK Space Systems said in a press release.

NASA has described the tests as a "crucial milestone" in the development of a unique propulsion technology that could be used to send probes to study the sun and the rest of the solar system.

Solar sail propulsion uses energy from the sun in the same way that a sailing boat is powered by the wind, reducing the need for a spacecraft to carry heavy fuel reserves.

A stream of solar energy particles bounce off giant reflective sails made of lightweight material 100 times thinner than a piece of writing paper, providing sufficient momentum to send a spacecraft speeding through space.

A spacecraft powered by a solar sail would require no onboard propellant, increasing its range of mobility and enabling it to hover at a fixed point in space for longer periods of time.

"A spacecraft utilizing solar sail propulsion can deploy a large, lightweight reflector -- up to tens of meters long, but very, very lightweight -- that can reflect sunlight," said Les Johnson of NASA's In-Space Propulsion Technology Office.

"As it reflects the Sun's energy, the sail will move and carry a small payload or a spacecraft along with it. As long as there's sunlight, there can be propulsion."

ATK scientist Dave Murphy told the New Scientist magazine that the first deployment of the solar sail, which weighs just 23 kilograms, had gone "flawlessly." The series of tests continue until July.

Murphy said a solar sail spacecraft would need a wingspan of 80 to 160 meters to gain sufficient momentum from the sun, depending on the mass of the craft.

Since the spacecraft would continue to accelerate, reaching speeds of tens of thousands of miles an hour, it could theoretically reach the edge of the solar system faster than a conventionally fueled craft.

NASA is not alone in recognizing the potential of solar sail propulsion.

Japan has already deployed two solar sails in space, while the Planetary Society, a non-profit U.S. group dedicated to promoting space exploration, hopes to launch its first solar sail from a Russian submarine in the next few weeks.
GL Schmitt

I’ve been watching the concept of solar sailing slowly cross over from Science Fiction into Science Fact during the past thirty years.

Next project: the FTL drive.

In passing: Just how does the Planetary Society intend to launch a solar sail from a Russian submarine? And what are they going to call it — the Sub-Mariner I ?
I think not
This techonology is awesome. Its a non profit organization nonetheless. Where the hell do they get this money I wonder
Uhh GL what is the FLT drive?
I think not
Quote: Originally Posted by mrmom2

Uhh GL what is the FLT drive?

Ever watch Star Trek mrmom? Its warp drive
Is somebody actually working on that ?Is there any progress?
I think not
Its a primer, theoretically possible.
Very interesting
I think not
Quote: Originally Posted by mrmom2

Very interesting

I know, I dig that Borg chick on Star Trek btw :P
Lets not go there I love her suit She fills it out nicely
Next few weeks try this afternoon,2933,160214,00.html
I think not
Malfunction fear for solar sail

Cosmos-1 uses the Sun's photons for propulsion
A solar sail spacecraft designed to use light from the Sun to travel through space may not have separated from its booster rocket, officials have said.
Mission scientists are waiting for news since the night launch of the privately funded Cosmos-1 craft from a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea.

One said there was "no information" whether the sail had successfully separated from the rocket.

Some think solar sails offer a cheaper, faster form of spacecraft propulsion.

The sail reflects particles of light, or photons, from the Sun, gaining momentum in the opposite direction.

Solar sailing is really the only known technology that could potentially take us to the stars

Amir Alexander, The Planetary Society
The Planetary Society, based in Pasadena, California, sponsored the launch of the $4m (£2.1m) experimental spacecraft.

Mission operations personnel monitoring the spacecraft from the Planetary Society's office in Pasadena cheered as they got word from mission operations in Moscow of the rocket's take-off just after 2045 BST.

But Lidia Avdeyeva, a spokeswoman for a Russian space institute involved with the project, said confirmation of success or failure could take several hours.

To the stars?

"Cosmos-1 is a short-term, modest mission that simply intends to prove the concept - that solar sailing is possible," The Planetary Society's Amir Alexander told the BBC.

"We are taking [solar sailing] from science fiction and speculation to actual working technology."

The US, European, Japanese and Russian space agencies also have solar sail programmes in the offing. US space agency (Nasa) scientists have reportedly expressed interest in the data it will collect.

The spacecraft will be launched from a Russian submarine

Cosmos-1: How does it work?

The 100kg (220lbs) Russian-built craft had been scheduled to reach an 800km- (500 mile-) high orbit.

It would then take pictures of Earth for four days before unfurling its eight aluminium-backed plastic sail blades into a 30m (100ft) circle.

If successful, the craft will orbit Earth once every 101 minutes for weeks.

The acceleration from sunlight is very small; but the advantage of solar sailing over chemical propulsion is that the acceleration is constant. Cosmos-1 will get faster and faster - and climb higher in orbit - as time goes on.

"Solar sailing is really the only known technology that could potentially take us to the stars one day because it does not have to carry fuel with it and because it can keep accelerating - even at incredible distances," said Mr Alexander.

Cosmos-1 was launched into space aboard a modified Volna intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from a submarine in the Barents Sea. Typically, the Volna does not have enough thrust to reach orbit.

But the missile used for Cosmos-1 had an added rocket engine (kick stage) of a type used to de-orbit satellites.

The kick-stage engine provided the additional thrust required to get Cosmos-1 into orbit.
Well that sucks i was really hoping that it worked and we would get to see it in action
I think not
Well they dont know yet, so hopefully the dam thing will work.
I think not
MOSCOW - The world's first solar sail spacecraft crashed back to Earth when its booster rocket failed less than two minutes after Tuesday's takeoff, Russian space officials said Wednesday.

The Cosmos 1 vehicle, a joint U.S.-Russian project, was intended to show that a so-called solar sail can make a controlled flight. Solar sails, designed to be propelled by pressure from sunlight, are seen as a potential means for achieving interstellar flight, allowing such spacecraft to gradually build up great velocity and cover large distances.

But the Volna booster rocket failed 83 seconds after its launch from a Russian nuclear submarine in the northern Barents Sea just before midnight Tuesday in Moscow, the Russian space agency said.

Its spokesman, Vyacheslav Davidenko, said that "the booster's failure means that the solar sail vehicle was lost." The Russian navy began a search for debris from the booster and the vehicle, he said.

U.S. scientists had said earlier that they possibly had detected signals from Cosmos 1 but cautioned that it could take hours or days to figure out exactly where the $4 million spacecraft was.

The signals were picked up late Tuesday after an all-day search for the spacecraft, which had suddenly stopped communicating after its launch, they said.

"It's good news because we are in orbit — very likely in orbit," Bruce Murray, a co-founder of The Planetary Society, which organized the mission, said before the Russian space agency's announcement.

A government panel will investigate possible reasons behind the failure of the three-stage rocket's first-stage engine, Davidenko said.

Past attempts to unfold similar devices in space have failed.

In 1999, Russia launched a similar experiment with a sun-reflecting device from its Mir space station, but the deployment mechanism jammed and the device burned up in the atmosphere.

In 2001, Russia again attempted a similar experiment, but the device failed to separate from the booster and burned in the atmosphere.

The project involved Russia's Lavochkin research production institute that built the vehicle and was financed by an organization affiliated to the U.S. Planetary Society.

The solar sail vehicle weighed about 242 pounds and was designed to go into an orbit more than 500 miles high. It was designed to be powered by eight 49 1/2-foot-long sail structures resembling the blades of a windmill.

Each blade can be turned to reflect sunlight in different directions so that the craft can "tack," much like a sailboat in the wind.

Controlled flight would have been attempted early next week, and Cosmos 1 was supposed to operate for at least a month.


But luck next time mrmom
I think not
TOKYO-- Japan wants to help build a lunar base and populate it with advanced versions of today's humanoid robots by around 2025, according to the head of the nation's space agency.

The idea is more than a pipe-dream; it is part of a 20-year plan, called JAXA Vision 2025, that was drawn up by Keiji Tachikawa, a former president of Japan's largest mobile operator NTT DoCoMo, who is now president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency(JAXA).

As part of the plan, Japan would use advanced robotic technologies to help build the moon base, while redeveloped versions of today's humanoid robots, such as Honda Motor's Asimo and Sony's Qrio, could work in the moon's inhospitable environment in place of astronauts, he said in a recent interview.

Japan's lunar robots would do work such as building telescopes and prospecting and mining for minerals, Tachikawa said.

"I see a big role for Japan's robotics technologies on the moon," he said. "Japanese robots will be one of our big contributions. If there is work where robots can replace humans, they will."

U.S. Also Interested

Tachikawa's plan follows a January 2004 decision by U.S. President George W. Bush that the U.S., with the assistance of partners including Japan, should build a lunar base by about 2020 and use it as a staging point for the human exploration of Mars.

The plan has struck a chord in Japan, which has long harbored dreams of building such a base.

Along with robots and robotic equipment, Japan's high-tech and industrial giants may also develop versions of more traditionally earthbound products for use in space.

"Honda could develop automobiles for the moon. Many products that are made here on earth can be adapted to operate on the moon," Tachikawa said.

Japan already has many of the technologies that it would need for its ambitions in space. Along with its better-known humanoid robots, the nation is also a leader in equipment such as robotic arms for space construction.

Robot Satellites

NEC and other Japanese companies are building experimental "robot satellites" that will be able to service, repair and refuel other satellites. Toshiba is supplying several parts for the $100 billion International Space Station, a gigantic floating laboratory with solar panels that spread the length of a football pitch. The parts from Toshiba include a highly dextrous, 9.7-meter robot arm.

Japan's space program was established in 1969, a few months after the American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. In the late 1990s, a leading Japanese think tank proposed that Japan launch over 100 rockets carrying robots and materials to help establish a Japanese outpost by 2020.

The proposal was ruled out because of costs, however. Soon after, three of Japan's satellite launches failed catastrophically, casting doubt on the nation's rocket technologies.

JAXA's annual space budget is only about $1.5 billion, or one tenth of NASA's. Following its own failures, Japan's space program has historically looked to the United States for leadership, so the realization of Tachikawa's dream may depend on the America's continued commitment to return to the moon.
"The world's first solar sail spacecraft crashed back to Earth when its booster rocket failed less than two minutes after Tuesday's takeoff, Russian space officials said Wednesday."

Maybe your missile defense system shot it down by accident?
I think not

The dam thing doesn't work.
I think not
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Backers of the revolutionary solar-powered Cosmos 1 held out desperate hopes that the craft had not been lost after its launch this week.

The privately funded US-Russian craft, which gets its power from a special solar sail, disappeared after its launch Tuesday from the Barents Sea.

But US experts say Cosmos 1 is still giving out a weak signal and its fate remained unknown.

Project director, Louis Friedman, president of the Planetary Society, told AFP "There is some possibility that Cosmos 1 won't be lost."

"The Russian space agency has made the conclusion that the spacecraft is lost because the motor failed," he said. "We've seen some counterindications to that, because there is some very weak spacecraft data" that appear to be coming from Cosmos 1.

Friedman said his team was examining the signals and it could take several days to find out what happened to the four million dollar craft.

"I don't think the final chapter is written -- at least we are not ready yet to make that conclusion," he said.

The Planetary Society said that the weak signal could mean that the craft was flying at a much lower orbit than planned.

Cosmos 1 was launched on a Russian Volna rocket on Tuesday from a submarine in the Barents Sea.

The 100 kilogramme (220 pound) craft had been scheduled to reach an 800 kilometer (500 mile) high orbit.

But Russia's Roskosmos space agency said Cosmos 1 was lost due to a failure involving the rocket.

Roskosmos said on its Internet site that the first stage of the three-stage rocket failed 83 seconds after launch. The Volna is an inter-continental ballistic missile converted to deploy small spacecraft into low earth orbit.

A satellite did not pick up a signal from Cosmos, "which signifies its loss," Igor Dygalo, a spokesman for the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet, told AFP in Moscow.

Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency cited a senior source involved in the project as saying the spacecraft had probably come down somewhere near New Zealand.

The Planetary Society, based in Pasadena, California, said monitoring stations in Russia's Far East and Majuro in the Marshall Islands had picked up signals from Cosmos 1.

Built by Russia's Lavochkin Association and the Russian Academy of Science's Space Research Institute, the bulk of the funds came from the Cosmos Studios in the United States. The launch was funded by the Russian government.

Cosmos 1 carried eight triangular sails made of tough, reflective and ultra-thin Mylar, one-fifth the thickness of a plastic trash bag.

Its sails were together supposed to form a mirror 30 meters (100 feet) in diameter that would absorb energy to propel it at increasingly high speeds.

The scientists behind Cosmos 1 had hoped to prove that rays of light could provide a limitless energy propulsion source for space voyages.

Experts said that, theoretically, after three years the craft could reach a speed of more than 100,000 kilometers (60,000 miles) an hour.

Two previous attempts to launch Russian solar craft, in 1999 and 2001, ended in failure.

NASA is designing its own solar spaceship capable of carrying 240 kilograms (531 pounds), with a sail the size of a football field.
Jo Canadian

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