Space enthusiasts have known about the concept of solar sails for decades. Use vast silver wings to accelerate a spacecraft using only the pressure from sunlight.
Now a satellite has been launched into orbit which will test the concept. The craft will unfurl itís sails on June 25, 2005 and try to catch a solar breeze. If it works, the satellite will gain velocity and climb to an ever-higher orbit.
This isnít going to happen quickly, and itís not going to be flashy. There wonít be any news for a few weeks, and then the gains (if any) will be modest. Something tells me that the news of success will be a minor item at best. Luckily the Planetary Society has a blog where we can keep track of developments.
What I fond rather interesting is that the satellite was launched into orbit from a Russian ballistic submarine. Thatís a pretty good use for those old doomsday weapons that are now rusting away from lack of maintenance.