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JAXA confirms acceleration of IKAROS solar sail by photon pressure

Posted by Louis D. Friedman

09-07-2010 14:15 CDT

Topics: IKAROS, mission status

The Japanese space agency reported on their web site today that acceleration of the IKAROS spacecraft by solar pressure has been confirmed.

This is a significant milestone on their flight -- probably the next-to-last step before complete controlled solar sail flight is achieved (turning the spacecraft to add or subtract velocity in a controlled manner). As we have noted many times before, just sensing of acceleration from photon pressure is not new; the acceleration by sunlight pressure on spacecraft has been known about ever since the beginning of the space age. It is, however, a new proof of engineering -- harnessing the force of light pressure force to modify a sailcraft's path in a controlled way.

The IKAROS spacecraft continues to perform well, and the world-wide kudos which the Japanese Space Exploration Center (JSpEC) is receiving -- for this mission, and for the successful return of the Hayabusa sample capsule -- are well deserved. For those of our members living near New York, the JSpEC team will give a special report at a free public event organized by The Planetary Society on Wednesday, July 21.

DCAM2's view of IKAROS

JAXA

DCAM2's view of IKAROS
A 32-frame animation from the deployable camera DCAM2 on IKAROS. The camera rotated as it receded, producing the apparent spin of the sail.
 
See other posts from July 2010

 

Or read more blog entries about: IKAROS, mission status

Comments:

ufo42: 07/05/2012 04:12 CDT

Why do solar sails need struts? Why not just fold them up into narrow strips in one direction then roll up the resulting long strip, attach a very small weight to the end (may not even be necessary, but could house a small propulsion system), then when in orbit, first spin up the package so that the folded strip unfurls into a long narrow strip (with the payload in the center of the folded narrow strip) then jettison the initial package and spin at right angles to the initial spin to cause the folds to open up, exposing the payload at the center. It should be possible with a bit of origami and judicious application of tiny thrusters to get the thing spinning in such a way that the sail is fully expanded without the need for the mass of struts in current designs. It would require a bit more computing power to figure out how to manoeuvre the spinning satellite, but computing power is pretty cheap these days. Let centripetal force replace the struts.

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