The Planetary Society's and Cosmos Studios' Cosmos 1 project passed a major milestone this week with the successful deployment of a solar sail blade in flight configuration in a vacuum chamber test at NPO Lavochkin in Khimki, Russia.
The 15-meter solar sail blade deployed to its full length in the 12 meter-vacuum chamber at NPO Lavochkin in Khimki, Russia. The deployment tested a redesigned blade packing scheme, which folded - rather than rolled - the blade and its inflatable tube frame.
"The blade deployed from the new configuration very smoothly," said Project Manager Victor Kudryashov from Babakin Center. "We will, of course, continue to analyze the test data." He added that the Babakin Space Center engineers, responsible for the spacecraft and sail development, "believe they have a design that will work and they are ready to implement it for flight."
Ecliptic Enterprises of Pasadena, CA provided space-qualified cameras in the vacuum chamber to videotape the test. The video can be viewed on the Planetary Society web site.
"Seeing that four-story-long blade deploy in vacuum was a thrill," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society and the Cosmos 1 Project Director. "Still ahead of us is the extraordinary adventure and drama of unfurling the sail in the zero gravity conditions of orbit."
A number of tests have recently been completed on the spacecraft mechanical model. Much of the focus is now shifting to the electronics testing, which is about to begin under the direction of the Space Research Institute (IKI) of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Launch of Cosmos 1 is planned for late this year, although a launch date will not be chosen until after system testing has begun. The spacecraft will launch from a Russian submarine on a Volna rocket using a new orbit insertion motor to put the spacecraft into an approximately 800-kilometer circular orbit.
"The spacecraft is far more capable than the one we had originally planned," Friedman noted. "Much more redundancy and capability have been built into it."
The Babakin - IKI group is preparing a spacecraft that they hope will have many applications after the Cosmos 1 project.
"We believe this basic spacecraft design could even serve as an interplanetary spacecraft, for example a mission to Mars," said Dr. Viacheslav Linkin, Chief Scientist on the project.
"This is precisely the dream we had in mind when we funded this mission," said Cosmos Studios CEO Ann Druyan, "to support the development of a whole new mode of space exploration."
Cosmos Studios has also gathered support for this mission from the television network, A&E, and philanthropist Peter Lewis.
LIVE: Web Camera Viewing Inside Russian Test Area
Cameras connected to the Internet are now installed within test facilities at Tarusa, the engineering facility where the spacecraft's electronics are being assembled and tested. These web cameras allow the public to view tests of flight sensors, instruments and the on-board computer. The web cameras operate on a part-time basis on the Society's web site.
Photos of the tests of Cosmos 1 are available at The Planetary Society's website.
A television documentary produced by Cosmos Studios will be shown exclusively on A&E after the project launch.