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Japan Launches World's First Solar Sail


Sayonara
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The Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima, Japan has launched the world's first solar sail in to orbit.

 

Previously only seen in science fiction, solar sails represent a fuel-free method of constant acceleration. They are the first potential extrasolar transport technology mankind has managed to fully realise.

 

http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/snews/2004/0809.shtml

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I read NASAs solar sail is scheduled to launch in 2005. I'm willing to bet this announcement will push the US for first manned flight to MARS even harder.

 

The next few years will be fairly exciting as far as space missions go methinks.

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The next few years will be fairly exciting as far as space missions go methinks.

 

i can only hope so, there hasnt been much action as such recently, on the space front! only the un-manned things to mars, about time theres some action there! this seems like a good beginning, lets all cheer it on!

 

seriously!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yes and no. I think Ion drives are probably more likely to aid in extrasolar exploration. Technically speaking solar sails become ineffective at the heliopause.

 

In response to the original post, go Japan! 'Bout time NASA got a good kick in the bum.

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Extrasolar[/i'] transport technology? Doesn't the solar sail become as good as ineffective around Saturn or somesuch?

Depends on what exactly happens when the thing reaches the boundary of the solar system. Theoretically it ought to have enough momentum by then to escape.

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Depends on what exactly happens when the thing reaches the boundary of the solar system. Theoretically[/i'] it ought to have enough momentum by then to escape.

 

Area of the sail has to be pretty damned big. Plus the amount of acceleration you're going to get from the particles diminishes a lot they further out you get.

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No, I don't think it will either. But at least they're investigating other forms of propulsion, which is always good.

 

However, the problem always remains of getting spacecraft off the Earth. Until they can build the craft in space or have some kind of space elevator, there's always going to be that problem, and it's going to hinder propulsion research to a certain degree.

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Don't discount it just yet. The closer you are to the sun, the more particles of stuff you're going to get because they won't have dispersed as much. If you launched a probe from say, Mercury, then it'd be going quite fast by the time it went past Earth.

 

I agree that mankind just hasn't come up with any viable options for interstellar travel yet. Getting to Mars takes 2 years as it stands, let alone something 2 light years away.

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I remember watching a discovery science show about going to mars. In it, they described solar sails as being a means of making the voyage.

 

They said in order to acheive the speed needed to reach mars in a decent amount of time, they would launch the craft towards the sun, effectively orbiting around it as close as possible. Once the craft was in line with the path to mars, the sail would be released, with the craft already moving at incredible speeds.

 

Of course, this was also speculating on future possibilities, not realities.

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  • 1 month later...
The US and Russia are planning to launch a solar sail spacecraft. Check it out:

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/science/story/0' date='12996,1283828,00.html[/quote']

 

here is a followup, giving the planned launch window

March-April 2005

 

http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/11/10/solar.sail.ap/index.html

 

I originally made a separate news thread about this, but I see now it can naturally segue off of Sayo's earlier post about the same thing.

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Technically speaking solar sails become ineffective at the heliopause.

 

 

But the momentum built up by the solar sail will remain effective after leaving the solar system.

 

Slowing due to friction in deep space should be negliable. Does anyone have any idea how fast it would need to be going to escape the solar systems gravitational pull?

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how exactly can the sun's UV rays propel the spacecraft forward? is it the photons that would hit the solar cells and cause a foward motion of the spacecraft?

 

i thought the solar cells would absorb the photons??? kind of confused how it works.

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i thought the solar cells would absorb the photons??? kind of confused how it works.

 

Just because the solar cells absorb the photons doesn't alter the fact that the momentum of those photons has been transfered to the craft. And not all of the crafts sail will be made up of solar cells anyway.

 

Think of the photons as cannon balls fired at you. If they hit you, it doesn't matter if they bounce off or if you catch them, they have still transfered momentum to you, pushing you away. The photons are like a constant stream of cannon balls fired at the craft, pushing it away.

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