Japan Plans Solar Sail Launch Next Year

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sail. Credit: Rick Sternbach/The Planetary Society
The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sail. Credit: Rick Sternbach/The Planetary Society

Two solar sailing trials readied for launch next year
Spaceflight Now

Japan is planning to launch an interplanetary solar sail mission called Ikaros next May. The Planetary Society will follow with its own demo flight by the end of 2010, the space advocacy group announced Monday in a statement written by Louis Friedman, the society’s executive director.

Ikaros stands for the Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun. The name also harkens to the Greek mythological figure Icarus, who fashioned feathers and attempted to escape exile but flew too close to the sun.

The mission will launch next May on an H-2A rocket with the Akatsuki mission to Venus, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The sqaure Ikaros sail, with a diagonal diameter of 66 feet, is covered with thin film solar cells to generate electricity. The spacecraft will spin up to about 20 rpm for stability during its mission.

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