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.
3 thoughts on “Look! Up in the Sky!”
Unfortunately, they can’t find it. It’s off course, or it’s been destroyed, or it’s on course but all the electronics is dead.
It was only going up to about 500 miles, which is the upper end of what’s normally considered “low earth orbit.” I’m under the impression that NORAD actively tries to track even small objects at this altitude with radar.
Sweet! Maybe they’ll offer extreme intergalactic parasailing!
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