Solar-Sail Launch Fails

    June 22, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

It was certainly a disappointment to the privately funded US-Russian effort as their shoestring $4 million worth of revolutionary technology failed to reach its orbit, and may be laying in pieces in the Arctic.

Solar-Sail Launch Fails

One of the rockets propelling the solar sail-powered spacecraft, Cosmos 1, into the heavens petered out about 83 seconds into flight.

Cosmos 1 is a special type of spacecraft, the first of its kind, using a very thin Mylar material in a pinwheel of sails to collect photons from the sun. The sails, which once unfurled are the size of a ten-story building, collect photons like wind and use them for propulsion through space.

Since gas powered rockets run out of fuel eventually, the special sail model is designed to travel for a long time, even into deep space for interstellar travel.

Though it starts slowly, Cosmos 1 steadily increases in speed until it can circle the earth every 100 minutes. After 100 days, the craft could conceivable reach speeds of up to 10,000 miles an hour.

But the world will have to wait until the next attempted launch as Cosmos 1, though unconfirmed at this point, is thought to have crashed. There is a slim possibility that it is in a lower orbit than intended and is difficult to detect. The faint signals scientists have been receiving suggest otherwise, much to the disappointment of its creators.

“The unique solar sail spacecraft was not delivered to its planned orbit because the engine of the first stage of the ‘Volna’ rocket shut itself down 83 seconds into the flight,” Russia’s Federal Space Agency said in a statement.

Launched from a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea, the craft’s signal was lost soon after.

“There are still ambiguities,” said Planetary Society spokeswoman Susan Lendroth.

“It is looking less hopeful than last night. They are saying there is still a slim possibility.”