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Planetary Society's Solar Sailing Spacecraft

Planetary Society's Solar Sailing Spacecraft

  • Benta
  • uploaded: May 27, 2007
  • Hits: 731

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The Planetary Society's first spacecraft, Cosmos 1, was also the first solar sail spacecraft ever constructed. Built in Russia with technical support from The Planetary Society and funded by Cosmos Studios and members of The Planetary Society, Cosmos 1 was designed to soar into space at the tip of a submarine-launched Volna rocket. There it was to spread its giant wings, and fly on the power of sunlight alone. On June 21, 2005, Cosmos 1 was launched as planned from the submarine Borisoglebsk of the Russian Northern Fleet. Unfortunately, the first stage of the Volna never completed its scheduled burn, and the spacecraft did not enter orbit. Cosmos 1, the first solar sail never had a chance to test its revolutionary technology.

A solar sail is a spacecraft without an engine, sped along its way by the direct pressure of light particles from the Sun. The particles, known as photons, reflect off the spacecraft's giant mirror-like sails, pushing the craft forward. Because a solar sail carries no fuel, and in principle can keep accelerating over almost unlimited distances, it is the only technology known today that could one day take us to the stars.

Cosmos 1 was not intended to go to the stars, but only to prove that solar sailing was possible. Once the spacecraft had entered Earth orbit, it was to raise its altitude through solar sailing. Any measurable increase in the spacecraft's orbit would have been considered a success. But even though the immediate goals of the mission were modest, the concept was grand: by establishing solar sailing as a feasible and effective technology, Cosmos 1 would clear the way for missions to the Solar System and beyond.

Cosmos 1 Named One of Most the
Innovative Ideas of 2005

The New York Times Magazine

The 5th Annual Year in Ideas Issue

December 11, 2005
Cosmos 1 never accomplished its stated goals, but this does not spell the end of The Planetary Society's involvement in solar sailing. The Society, with Cosmos Studios, is currently exploring the possibility of launching another spacecraft in the near future.

Cosmos 1 was not intended to go to the stars, but only to prove that solar sailing was possible. Once the spacecraft had entered Earth orbit, it was to raise its altitude through solar sailing. Any measurable increase in the spacecraft's orbit would have been considered a success. But even though the immediate goals of the mission were modest, the concept was grand: by establishing solar sailing as a feasible and effective technology, Cosmos 1 would clear the way for missions to the Solar System and beyond.



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