View Full Version : Date set for solar sail spacecraft launch. March 2005

2004-Nov-13, 06:11 PM

Cosmos 1 will be carried into Earth's orbit by a converted intercontinental ballistic missile launched from a submerged Russian submarine in the Barents Sea, the space exploration organization said Tuesday.

A launch date of March 1 was scheduled, with a window to April 7, but the actual liftoff date will be determined by the Russian navy. Russian, American and Czech ground stations will track the craft.

The mission, costing just under $4 million, will attempt the first controlled flight of a solar sail.

Solar sails are envisioned as a means for achieving interstellar flight. Though very gentle, solar pressure should allow such spacecraft to gradually build up great speeds over time, and cover great distances.

Japan tested solar sail deployment on a suborbital flight and Russia deployed a solar sail outside its old Mir space station, but neither involved controlled flight, said Louis Friedman, executive director of The Planetary Society and project director of Cosmos 1.

When Cosmos 1 is in orbit, inflatable tubes will stretch the sail material out and hold it rigid in eight 49.5-foot-long structures resembling the blades of a windmill. Each blade can be turned to reflect sunlight in different directions so that the craft can "tack" much like a sailboat in the wind.

Cosmos 1 is a project of The Planetary Society, which was founded in 1980 by the late astronomer Carl Sagan, former Jet Propulsion Laboratory director Bruce Murray and Friedman, also a JPL veteran.

Cosmos 1 was built by the Russian aerospace company NPO Lavochkin. Most of the funding has come from Ithaca, New York-based Cosmos Studios, which was co-founded by Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, to create science-based entertainment. Druyan noted that Sagan, who died in 1996, would have turned 70 on Tuesday.

"Starting the countdown clock for the launch of Cosmos 1 on Carl's birthday could not be more appropriate," she said in a statement.

A prototype of the society's sail was launched by Russia in 2001 but the rocket did not develop enough thrust and the spacecraft failed to separate from the booster.

Cosmos 1 is designed to go into a nearly polar orbit more than 500 miles high and operate for a month. "We'll be happy with a couple of weeks, even a few days," Friedman said.

Covering 720 square yards, the sail should be visible as a bright pinpoint of light in the night sky.

So what do you all think about this? Hope it goes well, I think it is promising technology.

2004-Nov-13, 06:52 PM
Couldn't help but laugh at the ICBM part and "Russian, American and Czech ground stations will track the craft" well they don't have to worry about it blowing up at least :D

I don't have much hope for solar sail technology it seems too slow and clumsy to me. Im hoping someday we might make controlled fusion drives, use a reflective surface to give you push from the light emitted. I think it would have more thrust then a solar sail and better acceleration. Plus it would be one heck of a weapon, new form of road rage when you vaporize the person who ticked you off :D

2004-Nov-14, 02:33 AM
"... once fully deployed Cosmos1 will be given a boost by a microwave beam via a powerful radio dish in Goldstone California, part of Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Deep Space Network..."
Is this the same project that is carrying public 'messages' aboard, for a donation?

2004-Nov-15, 03:23 PM
Obviously solar sails are not useful for short trips. What is the breakeven point? Would a trip to say Saturn be faster with a solar sail than with a conventional gravity assisted trip? Can solar sails be controlled well enough to use gravity assists ?

2004-Nov-17, 01:01 AM
Obviously solar sails are not useful for short trips. What is the breakeven point? Would a trip to say Saturn be faster with a solar sail than with a conventional gravity assisted trip? Can solar sails be controlled well enough to use gravity assists ?

I would think that their shape would expand and contract especially with the design their using. If it was basically like a flat sheet of aluminium foil and perfectly solid and wouldn't bend then I think it would be able to use gravity assists.

One idea i thought of would be to use the main rocket of the NASA space launches as many people proposed using them (as they are huge inside) as colony pods etc anything you can think of. I think it could be used as possibly as a craft, using a large ridged solar sail and small modifications to it like manoeuvring thrusters and an on and off switch for the main thruster. This could be used to get it up to speed and then the solar sail to add a bit of constant thrust to the ship.

Also one thing that could be used is on a gravity assist using the inner solar system for a speed boost would mean increased acceleration out due to the light concentration so use a small craft and launch it like a satellite around the inner solar system and on its way out deploy one big solar sail and watch that baby pick up speed :D