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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Cosmos 1 Ready for Launch

Cosmos 1.
Cosmos 1.
Credit: The Planetary Society.
The world's first solar sail is ready for launch. Cosmos 1, a project of the Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, represents the first fully-functional solar sail ever developed. It will launch during a period starting June 21 atop a converted ICBM from a submerged Russian submarine.

A solar sail offers some opportunities for interplanetary travel, accelerating slowly and propelled by photons from the Sun. Solar sails are a reusable alternative to traditional rocket fuel, weighing much less than rocket engines at just a few pounds. Additionally, where rockets can only accelerate for a short period of time before expending their fuel, a solar sail can accelerate constantly. Within a few short years, a solar sail could exit the solar system.

Another part of the mission involves firing a microwave beam from the Earth to see if a solar sail can be further accelerated by means of a laser. Should this method be successful, a short and inexpensive trip to any part of the solar system would be a reality. In any case, the mission is already a ringing success for the newly established private-enterprise space race, spurred onward by SpaceShipOne in October.

(More info: The Planetary Society)

- posted by Alex @ 14:48 EST