Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Cosmos 1 is due to launch on March 1, 2005. It's a solar sail powered spacecraft.
The Planetary Society, without government funds, but with support of Cosmos Studios and Society members, put together an international team of space professionals to attempt this first actual solar sail flight. The Space Research Institute (IKI) in Moscow oversaw the creation of the flight electronics and mission control software while NPO Lavochkin, one of Russia’s largest aerospace companies, built the spacecraft. American consultants have provided additional components, including an on-board camera built by Malin Space Science Systems.

Solar sailing is done not with wind, but with reflected light pressure - its push on giant sails can continuously change orbital energy and spacecraft velocity. Once injected into Earth’s orbit, the sail will be deployed by inflatable tubes, which pull out the sail material and make the structure rigid. The 600-square-meter sail of Cosmos 1 will have eight blades, configured like a giant windmill. The blades can be turned like helicopter blades to reflect sunlight in different directions, and the sail can “tack” as orbital velocity is increased. Each blade measures 15 meters in length and is made from 5-micron-thin aluminized, reinforced mylar – about 1/4 the thickness of a trash bag.

Once Cosmos 1 is deployed in orbit, the solar sail will be visible to the naked eye throughout much of the world, its silvery sails shining as a bright pinpoint of light traveling across the night sky.

Via Dappled Things.

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