Feeds

Scientists spot signal from solar-sail craft

Orbital lost and found

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Cosmos 1, the experimental, solar sail-powered spacecraft launched yesterday from a Russian submarine, has gone missing. Although faint signals detected by tracking stations seem to suggest that the craft is alive and well, mission scientists don't seem to be able to find it in orbit.

The mission has been jointly funded by a TV production company and the California-based Planetary Society, a space advocacy group founded by the astronomer, science fiction author, and champion of science in general, Carl Sagan. Bruce Murray, co-founder of the Planetary Society, said yesterday that the signals were very good news because it meant the craft was "very likely in orbit".

Mission controllers lost contact with the craft almost as soon as it blasted off yesterday evening, and was presumed lost. However, after some hours, tracking stations in Russia, the Czech Republic and the Pacific Ocean all reported faint signals from the craft.

Scientists suspect that the final rocket burn sent the spacecraft slightly off course, so that although it made it into orbit, it is not in the orbit they expected. If this was the case, ground-based antennae hunting for Cosmos 1 would now be trained on the wrong part of the sky, which would account for the weak signals.

The scientists said they would ask US Strategic Command, normally charged with spotting incoming missiles, or other sky-based threats, for help in tracking down their spacecraft.

The possibility exists that the craft is in a decaying orbit and will eventually spiral down towards Earth.

The original plan was for the craft to orbit the planet, taking pictures for four days, before unfurling its solar sail. The sails would form a 30m circle that would provide a very slight, but constant, acceleration using the pressure of solar photons. Over a period of weeks, the craft's speed should increase so that it achieves escape velocity.

The aim of the project is to show that controlled flight is possible using solar sails. ®

Related stories

Blast off for solar-sail test craft
Phoenix to rise on 2007 Mars mission
Buzz Aldrin takes giant leap into kids' books

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?