Feeds

Scientists spot signal from solar-sail craft

Orbital lost and found

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

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

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.