Sunbeam-sailing spacecraft deemed 'mission success' in Earth orbit

By Joey Roulette

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Japan did a light-sail experiment in space in 2010, the IKAROS.

In theory, light-sails can achieve 0.1c which makes them by far the fastest method of space travel possible today. That means we could send something to our closest neighbor star in about 50-60 years.

Very cool stuff.

Congrats to The Planetary Society. This will change how satellites maintain their orbits very soon.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Where did we all come from?'" Nye said.

We know where, which is why Bill Nye lost his title as “the Science Guy.”

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Space pirates. ...?

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We know where

Care to enlighten we ignorant folk?

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Light sails are really cool Proof of concept Technology that has long been Sci-Fi

And in real-science we started seeing it being used in the 1970's with the Mariner mission:

The best Science Fiction may be the dreams of Real Scientists... but without Dreams we will never have goals to make reality.

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Congratulations to them. But it is amazing that it took a small not for profit to do this, it is obvious, the theory has been known for a long time, the benefits are know and real, the advantages over thrusters in space are obvious and it is a simple, cheap experiment and yet NASA has ignored the technology. I wonder why? I suppose it just doesn’t squander enough public money to be sexy.

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Yes, the Mariner missions to Mercury were the first jab at this type of exploration in early 1974.  We've had coronal studies since that time but in terms of solar exploration and 'sailing' this is a pioneering first.

Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun!

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NASA has ignored the technology.

Nope. NASA has used it and has tested it multiple times since 2000.

While cancelled before actual space flight, the Sunjammer 13,000 sqft satellite was near to being launched. They did test the technology and learned much that would make any new efforts significantly better. Origami turns out to be extremely useful for sail folding and unfolding.

NEA Scout will be flown with EM-1 Orion capsule mission as a secondary payload to the asteroid belt.

NanoSail-D was launched in 2011. The sail failed initially, but explicitly opened 6+ weeks later. Need better origami experts?

For the goals of NASA satellites and current deep space missions, light sails are a niche solution.

NASA missions usually have much more mass, where the light sails would need to be huge to be used AND reaction propellant will still be required for orbit change maneuvers to other bodies.

Light sails are useless for any manned missions. Too much mass, where a solar sail would need to be the size of Texas.

As satellites become smaller, lighter, and real savings can be achieved by longer lifetimes of the satellites, light sails make much more sense, especially if solar power can fully power a satellite for 40+ yrs.

I'm not a light sail expert, but did work at NASA as a rocket scientist writing GN&C software for spacecraft.
1 ( +1 / -0 )

Amazing, solar powered space travel

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