Solar Sail Launches Today
Interest in the Cosmos-1 solar sail mission grows dramatically in the hours before its liftoff.
The Cosmos-1 mission lifts off at approximately 3:45 pm EDT today. The Planetary.org web site has slowed to a crawl this morning, and has been inaccessible. But the Cosmos-1 site SolarSail.org is still available and counting down to this afternoon’s launch.
A converted ICBM, a Russian Volna rocket leftover from the days of George Smiley and James Bond, will carry the solar sail 500 miles above the Earth. After several days, inflatable tubes will open the eight solar sails, and the craft will attempt to capture photons emitted by the sun and move in space.
The mission will serve as a proof of concept for using solar sails. Should it prove successful, solar sails may be a feasible alternative for future interplanetary missions. In theory, a solar sail craft can attain great speeds, but must have a star or an artificial source of photons to keep it moving.
Perhaps, a future Mars mission will see the solar sail used to help move cargo from Earth to the Red Planet, while NASA’s projected Crew Exploration Vehicle carries a human crew there.
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.