Photo courtesy of JAXA

Solar backpacks and sun-fueled vehicles are impressive, but a solar-powered spacecraft just blows our minds.  Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, plans to launch a spacecraft powered by solar sails. The craft, appropriately dubbed Ikaros (Interplanetary Kite-Craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun), will make its journey into deep space on May 18th.

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Though solar sail-powered crafts have been used before, Ikaros is the first to attempt to enter deep space. The craft’s 46-foot sails come equipped with solar cells thinner than a human hair. When solar particles hit the cells, they generate power for Ikaros. Mission controllers on the ground will steer the craft by adjusting the sails’ angles, ensuring optimal amounts of radiation are reaching the solar cells.

Ikaros’s pricetag is in the realm of $16 million dollars. And while it’s certainly an ambitious project, there are no guarantees the fuel-free space explorer will work. A rocket will transport Ikaros to space on May 18th, along with Japan’s first satellite to Venus. Stay tuned to see how Ikaros fares when the spacecraft finally gets its day in the sun.


Via Popular Science