Japan to Launch First Deep Space Vehicle Propelled by Solar Sails

Japan's space agency plans to launch the first deep space vehicle to be use solar sail propulsion:
"Ikaros is a 'space yacht' that gets propulsion from the pressure of sunlight particles bouncing off its sail," Yuichi Tsuda, space systems expert at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), told journalists.

The flexible sails, which are thinner than a human hair, are also equipped with thin-film solar cells to generate electricity to create "a hybrid technology of electricity and pressure", Tsuda said.

"Solar sails are the technology that realises space travel without fuel as long as we have sunlight. The availability of electricity would enable us to navigate farther and more effectively in the solar system."

The Ikaros will be launched from Tanegashima space center on May 18. It cost $16 million to develop.

Link via Popular Science | Image: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

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We're a long way from the Bajoran lightship yet....

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Mission objectives and a better description at the source:


Unfortunately they don't mention that nasty old law called Inverse Square Law, making solar sails for the OUTER solar system pretty much useless.
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