Thursday, March 17, 2005
The Alpha Centauri Starbucks Aren't Gonna Build Themselves
Moscow, Russia, Mar. 17 (UPI) -- A solar-sail spacecraft is undergoing pre-flight testing, Russian media reported Thursday.
The unmanned spacecraft with eight triangular sail blades, each 16.5 yards long, is to be launched in April aboard a Volna rocket. The launch will occur from a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea, Lidia Avdeeva, spokeswoman for the Lavochkin production and science association, told the Russian ITAR-TASS news agency.
Scientists will study the possibility of using a solar sail as a traction system and as a way to control the spacecraft during its orbit flight, she said.
"Technical solutions used in the probe can be a basis for future interplanetary expeditions," she said.
The launch of the spacecraft, called Cosmos 1, was planned for March but was postponed because of "the sheer volume of preparatory work," Avdeeva said earlier this year.
The spacecraft was built under a contract with the U.S. Planetary Society.
An attempt in 2001 to test a spacecraft with two sail blades failed because the craft failed to deploy from its booster rocket.
I first came across the concept of the solar sail in one of my favorite books:
The Mote in God's Eye
by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle