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Press Room

Solar Sail Test Flight Launches From Russian Arctic July 20


Mat Kaplan
Phone: +1-626-793-5100

The deployment test flight for the Cosmos 1 Solar Sail project has been re-scheduled to launch on July 20, 2001 at 4:33 AM (Moscow time), which is July 19, 2001 at 5:33 PM (California time). In the unlikely event that weather conditions warrant a change, the flight could launch at an earlier back-up time that same day.

Cosmos Studios and A&E Network sponsor the project. The project is privately funded, has scientific and commercial objectives, and involves the cooperation of Russian space and defense organizations through a contract with The Planetary Society.

Cosmos 1 will launch from a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea. The submarine will set sail from Severomorsk, the naval port near Murmansk.

Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society and Project Director for Cosmos 1, will watch the launch firsthand from the deck of a nearby observation vessel.

"We are setting precedents in many ways -- with a private venture using Russian military facilities for launch, with the new technology of solar sails, and with a space interest group organizing this project," said Friedman. "Each of these factors is a bit scary, and I admit to some nervousness. However, risk is inherent to space exploration, and exploring new worlds -- in all its meanings -- is the motto of The Planetary Society."

The Cosmos 1 test craft will deploy two solar sail blades, testing the sail's deployment sequence and performance during the 30-minute flight. Data collected from this test will help engineers prepare for the planned first solar sail mission in late 2001.

Solar sailing utilizes reflected light pressure pushing on giant panels, which adjust to the continuously changing orbital energy and spacecraft velocity. The sunlight pressure is powerful enough to push spacecraft between the planets from Mercury out to Jupiter. Beyond Jupiter, and out to the stars, space sailing can be done using powerful lasers focused over long distances in space.


About The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. With the mission to empower the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration, its international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a longtime member of The Planetary Society's Board, serves as CEO.