Feeds

Blast off for solar-sail test craft

Sun blows

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top three mobile application threats

A privately-funded spacecraft powered by a solar sail is set for launch this evening. The Cosmos-1 mission will be launched into orbit from a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea, in the Arctic Ocean, this evening at 8:46pm, UK time.

The craft will power its way to a 500 mile-high orbit atop a modified Volna intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The missile, which would not normally have enough power to reach orbit, has an additional rocket attached, similar to those used to de-orbit satellites. This should provide enough of an extra kick to get the craft to the necessary altitude.

Once in orbit, the experimental craft will wait four days before extending its solar sails, and will use this time to take pictures of Earth. Once unfurled, the sails will form a 30m circle that uses the momentum of solar photons to generate a very small, but constant, acceleration away from the sun. This acceleration is so small, in fact, that the craft will stay in orbit for several weeks, gradually gaining speed and altitude until it reaches escape velocity.

Solar sails have long been touted as the most realistic way of powering interstellar exploration, because although the acceleration is small, over a long enough time, a craft could achieve a very high velocity.

The $4m project has been funded by a TV station, and the Planetary Society in California. NASA is reportedly keen to get its hands on the experimental data from the expedition.

"Cosmos-1 is a short-term, modest mission that simply intends to prove the concept - that solar sailing is possible," The Planetary Society's Amir Alexander told the BBC.

"[It] is really the only known technology that could potentially take us to the stars one day, because it does not have to carry fuel with it and because it can keep accelerating - even at incredible distances," he added. ®

Related stories

MIT boffins moot space leotard
NASA scramjet nudges Mach 10
SMART-1 makes lunar orbit

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.