Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Solar sail launched today Updated

I know I'm late with this but there was an interesting news item today. A spacecraft was launched today that will, finally, demonstrate in real life whether the sci-fi concept of sailing the solar winds is a workable solution or not.

::::::::Cosmos 1, the world's first solar sail spacecraft, takes flight on June 21, 2005, and is scheduled to unfurl its shining sails on June 26. The innovative solar sail, a project of The Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, was built in Russia and will launch atop a converted ICBM from a submerged Russian submarine in the Barents Sea.::::::::

Guess someone found a good use for all those surplused Russian subs after all.

Update: Well, perhaps I spoke too soon. No sooner than I'd posted this when I saw this story over on Fox:

::::::::The world's first solar sail spacecraft was launched Tuesday from a Russian submarine under the Barents Sea but concern grew about whether it safely reached orbit as hours passed without a signal.

Cosmos 1, a $4 million experiment intended to show that a so-called solar sail can make a controlled flight, was launched at 12:46 p.m. PDT, and initial data reception was followed by silence.

"The news is not good," said Bruce Murray, a co-founder of The Planetary Society, which organized the launch.

Data stopped during a pass over a portable ground station on Russia's Kamchatka peninsula at about the time the rocket's final stage would have ignited, mission officials said.

Yeah, that's not a good sign. When a spacecraft reaches an ignition point for an engine burn and suddenly stops communicating, it's usually because the ship went boom along with the engine. I certainly hope the pull this one off.