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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

 

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