the Japanese space agency, JAXA, successfully unfurled a solar sail in space for the first time.
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[...] still on the low end researchers are hoping to get the paper solar cells up to 4% efficiency. Once this happens, the cheap, flexible cells could be used in all sorts [...]
[...] Solar wind sails work by pointing a .4-inch-wide copper wire attached to the sail at the sun. This wire, which can be up to half a wire in length, then generates a magnetic field that captures electrons found in solar winds throughout the Solar System. These particles are in turn funneled into a spherical receiver, which then produces a current. [...]
[...] been following the progress of the Japanese spaceship IKAROS — the first to unfurl a solar sail in deep space. Today, the ship made the only first that really matters: it caught the sun’s [...]
The Planetary Society (an international space advocacy group funded by private sources) is launching and funding a series of solar sail missions called Lightsail beginning later this year. @Lee, the Japanese are working on a hybrid solar sail/ ion drive system such as you mention. Ion drives have been operationally verified. The Lightsail missions will test actual propulsion and navigation. You don't have to wait and hope on goverment actions, get on board, join the Planetary society.
By the way, the writer is being sensationalist and silly, this has NOTHING to do with the possibility of extraterrestrial life. It's a propulsion system, for god's sake!
I have no idea whether or not any other country has accomplished this feat, but did expect the Japanese to pull it off. Good to know science and a space program continues with such success. Let's hope it will be used for peaceful purposes and continued exploration and learning.
I really do hope that this is a successful test of this technology. It really would open up our solar system to exploration on a grand scale and with realistic travel times. The idea of combining solar cells with the sail is a brilliant one, giving more energy for the unit area. Of course the electricity if used for propulsion would need a 'fuel' supply.....hydrogen or some kind of accelerable matter. Some could be carried onboard in tanks, and some could be collected by the sail itself!
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