First test for solar wind power

Sails unfurled for new drive technology in space

Cloverleaf solar sail ISAS
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A start has been made: for the first time worldwide, the Japanese space research institute ISAS has tested a thin-film material in space, from which solar sailors could once be developed for rocket-less space flight. Instead of fuel, they use the solar wind as a drive.

A solar glider is a spacecraft without rocket propulsion. It is moved forward by the light particles of the solar wind, which reflect from the gigantic sails and thus exert thrust. Because the sailor does not have to carry fuel and accelerates over almost unlimited distances, he is considered the only technology currently available to fly to other stars.

Although both scientists and science fiction writers have long predicted the existence of such solar gliders, so far no such sail has ever been tested in space. Only due to the new developments in materials research are the first film materials available that are extremely light yet durable enough to serve as sails.

The launch of the test rocket with the sailing material on board took place on August 9, 2004 from the Uchinoura Space Center in Japan. It could go down in history as the culmination and the beginning of a completely new propulsion technology for space travel. The test rocket tested two types of sails: a clover-shaped film was spread 100 miles after launch at 122 kilometers, another fan-shaped film 230 seconds after lifting 169 kilometers in height. Both sails spread out as planned and the tests are considered successfully completed. 400 seconds after takeoff, the launch vehicle crashed as planned into the sea again.

(Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, 11.08.2004 - NPO) advertisement