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Pattaya Daily News

12 June 2010 :: 15:06:23 pm 24953

Japan Celebrate Launch of Solar Powered Space “Kite”

Japanese scientists are celebrating the successful launch of the first solar powered “space kite” dubbed the ‘Ikaros.’
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Japan, the 12th of June 2010 [Pattaya Daily News]: The 200m2 solar membrane connected to a small disc-shaped spacecraft was blasted into orbit late last month by a Japanese H-IIA rocket.

The Ikaros has been developed to demonstrate the possibility of using sunlight as an efficient propulsion system in spaceflight. The technique has long been touted as the future of Solar System exploration with the use of no chemical based fuels other than in the launch process.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) stated that their scientists had deployed the solar sail on the 3rd of June and were currently testing its efficiency, acceleration and ease of manoeuvrability whilst in flight.

Conformation that the sail had been fully deployed and that some solar cells embedded on the solar sails membrane had been generating significant energy have been reported.

It is not expected that solar sails or solar power will ever replace conventional propulsion systems like chemical thrusters, however, there is definitely a potential for solar cells to play a much bigger roll in certain space missions.

The Ikaros was deployed last month with its sail wrapped around the central spaceship, the idea that by unbuttoning its four weighted corners it would allow the membrane “kite” to extent flat as the spacecraft turned. A mounted camera on the central hub has confirmed this theory has worked.

Japanese scientists will now hope to control this huge spinning “kite” as it travels through space building up energy from the sun. If instabilities develop in the sail, it could start to bend or fold, ruining the experimental project.

The Ikaros was piggy-backed into space last May via the Japanese Venus orbitor, Akatsuki from the Tanepashima Space Center. It is expected to arrive at Venus in December. Its mission is to find evidence of lighting and/or active volcanoes on Venus.

Reporter : John Weston   Photo : Internet   Category : World News

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