The Cosmos 1 solar sail space craft will be launched on Tuesday from a Russian submarine in the Arctic Barents Sea. The 220-pound (100kg) Cosmos 1 utilises a new method of space travel that uses sunlight to accelerate. In theory, the impact of each light particle, or photon, from sunlight on the space craft's sails will propel the probe through space's airless, near-frictionless vacuum.
If the launch from the Russian submarine goes well, the experimental Russian spacecraft will reach a 500-mile-high (804km) orbit. After circling Earth for four days to take photos it will unfurl its eight sail blades into a 100-foot (30.5m) wide circle.
The blades are made of aluminum-backed plastics about one quarter the thickness of a trash bag. The most risky part of the mission is the unfurling of the sails as they might break up.
The Cosmos 1 space craft will be able to raise and lower its orbit by turning the sail to different angles from the sun's light. It is also claimed that the sail will be seen at night, it will shine as brightly as a full moon but luckily will be smaller.
Cosmos 1 will orbit Earth once every 101 minutes for a few weeks and sunlight pressure on the sails will slowly increase the speed of the craft with about 100mph (160km/h) a day.
It is hoped that solar sail technology may make future interplanetary missions faster and more cheaply.
Source: USA Today
Cosmos 1 solar sail space craft to launch on Tuesday
Posted on Monday, June 20 2005 @ 15:44 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck