IKAROS, Japan's solar sail, is nearly ready for launch, piggybacked behind the Venus orbiter Akatsuki. JAXA is advertising a webcast of the launch event available through this link beginning at 6:15 a.m. Japan time May 18 (21:15 UTC / 14:15 California time May 17); launch is planned for half an hour later.
Earlier this week we received some awesome photos of the silica glass DVD provided to JAXA by The Planetary Society being mounted on the spacecraft. This all happened on April 25. If you're a member, or if you signed up on our website, your name is on this disk, and will fly past Venus with IKAROS! I especially like this photo showing the assembly and integration team (I presume) with the spacecraft and the DVD. The fellow with the blue gloves in the middle is holding the little DVD.
Preparing to attach the names disc to IKAROS
Engineers pose with JAXA's IKAROS spacecraft and The Planetary Society's DVD, which will carry more than 100,000 names toward Venus.
Here's a closeup on the spacecraft. The silvery thing is the sail; it'll be deployed through centrifugal force, by spinning the spacecraft after its launch.
IKAROS, ready for the names disc
IKAROS sits in the fairing assembly building, its solar sail wrapped tightly around the cylindrical spacecraft.
Here's a nice shot of them getting ready to attach the DVD...
Preparing to mount the DVD on IKAROS
Engineers clean the spacecraft surface in preparation for mounting The Planetary Society's names DVD to IKAROS.
And there it is, velcroed to the spacecraft, ready to carry your names into space!
Names DVD mounted to IKAROS
On April 25, 2010, engineers installed The Planetary Society's names DVD onto JAXA's IKAROS solar sailcraft.