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Solar sail set for first space test

作者:强陵    发布时间:2019-03-06 03:16:00    

By Jeff Hecht The first test of a solar sail in space is set to take place when a repaired spacecraft launches on a recycled Russian ballistic missile on 19 July. The experiment will test technology the Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios will use in an experimental solar-sail satellite called Cosmos 1 to be launched late in 2001. The spacecraft had to be repaired after pre-launch tests damaged it in April, causing a three-month delay. Despite the delay, Cosmos 1 is expected to reach space before a solar sail being developed by the European Space Agency. Solar sails are large, low-mass structures pushed by light pressure rather than rocket fuel. Tilting the sails changes their course, like a sailboat. Once launched above the Earth’s atmosphere, sunlight can propel them as far as Jupiter’s orbit. Powerful laser beams could push them over longer distances. Advocates say solar sails will make interplanetary trips faster and cheaper for lightweight vehicles, but they have not been demonstrated in space. The 30-minute suborbital flight will test a key technology for unfurling the panels of the solar sail. When the spacecraft reaches peak altitude of 412 kilometres, 15-metre-long frames will inflate, deploying two thin mylar panels designed to catch sunlight. A pair of cameras on the spacecraft will monitor the process, then drop back to the ground in Kamchatka. Russian radars will track the camera module so helicopter crews can recover the cameras, but the solar panels will burn up in the atmosphere. If all works as planned, the American sponsors plan to orbit the eight-panelled Cosmos 1, with a 30-metre wide sail,

 

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