The Cosmos 1 Solar Sail mission has passed a critical milestone in preparing for launch within the next several months. The Volna launch vehicle -- the converted ballistic missile that will launch the solar sail spacecraft from a Russian submarine -- passed a test that demonstrates its readiness for orbital missions.
Engineers performed a successful test of the entire launch sequence, including separation of the solar sail payload from the rocket, at the Makeev Rocket and Test Center in Miass, Russia. A complete engineering model of the solar sail spacecraft was bolted on to the 3rd stage of the Volna, then dropped from a 60-meter drop tower in a vacuum to simulate space conditions as the spacecraft was explosively separated from the rocket stage. The spacecraft model remained intact after separation.
A joint venture of The Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, the Cosmos 1 Solar Sail is a visionary approach to space exploration. This is the first space mission ever conducted by a space interest group, and also the first by an entertainment media company.
The Cosmos 1 spacecraft is currently being assembled at the Babakin Space Center near Moscow. Engineers and scientists are conducting final tests of the flight software and all operations of the hardware. Cosmos 1 may launch as early as October, 2003. If the spacecraft does not launch in October, the launch will be scheduled for early 2004. The Russian Navy, which controls both the rocket and the launch preparation area, has scheduled operations in November and December at the launch area that will preclude any civil launches, such as Cosmos 1, during that time period.
Solar Sail Exhibit, New York City
A replica of one of the eight 47-foot blades that make up the Cosmos 1 Solar Sail is currently on display in New York City's Rockefeller Center as part of a large "Centennial of Flight" exhibit. Suspended from the soaring lobby ceiling, the blade has given the public their first-ever opportunity to see a technology that will likely fly missions throughout the solar system and to the stars.
Solar Sail Presentation, August 14
Louis Friedman, the Cosmos 1 Project Director and Executive Director of The Planetary Society, and Ann Druyan, the Cosmos 1 Program Director and CEO of Cosmos Studios, will give a special presentation about the solar sail at Rockefeller Center at 12 noon on Thursday, August 14, 2003. The 30-minute presentation will be repeated at 1:00 PM. The Rockefeller exhibit ends August 18.
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. Beyond the solar system, space sailing can be done using powerful lasers focused over long distances in space. Solar sails might help us realize the long-sought dream of interstellar flight.
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.