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Cosmos 1: Solar Sailed Spacecraft


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Cosmos 1: Solar Sailed Spacecraft
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709
¡Damned!
 
Join Date: May 2004
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2005-06-20, 06:26

...launches tomorrow.

This is very cool stuff. From USA Today:

Quote:
A space advocacy group is hoping to show the world a new way to power vehicles through space by launching the first "solar sail" into orbit Tuesday.

If successful, the privately launched Cosmos 1 will pioneer an elegant method of space travel that uses gentle pressure from sunlight to ply outer space. In theory, the impact of each light particle, or photon, from sunlight on the spacecraft's sails will propel the probe through space's airless, near-frictionless vacuum.

The mission has a cast of characters not usually featured in space missions. NASA experts have been consulted and are interested in the data, but the Planetary Society, based in Pasadena, Calif., is sponsoring the launch of the $4 million experimental spacecraft. Half of the money is provided by Cosmos Studios, a maker of science documentaries that is chronicling the mission.

Because fuel takes up much of the weight of satellites, solar sails made of stronger modern materials have captivated space enthusiasts.

If the launch from a Russian submarine in the Arctic Barents Sea goes well, the 220-pound experimental Russian-built spacecraft will reach a 500-mile-high orbit. After it circles Earth for four days snapping photos, its eight sail blades, made of aluminum-backed plastic about one-quarter the thickness of a trash bag, will unfurl into a 100-foot wide circle.

The unfurling of the sails is the riskiest part of the mission; the material could rip or tangle.

Once the sails unfurl, mission controllers will attempt the first space navigation propelled by the pressure of sunlight. By turning the sail to different angles from the sun's light, the spacecraft should be able to raise and lower its orbit. The sail will be visible at night, shining as brightly as a full moon, but smaller.

The craft is set to circle the Earth once every 101 minutes for weeks. Sunlight pressure on the sails may only increase the speed of the satellite up to 100 mph each day, but that adds up over time. Proponents believe that in the future, the constancy of sunlight pressure will make interplanetary solar sails much faster — and cheaper — than those propelled by rocket.
Very exciting. I remember as a kid reading about this in science/fiction mags...speculating on how we'd all be riding giant solar windsurfers hopping from colony to colony and such.

Don't miss the 'plasma sail' bit at the end of the NPR article. Now that's some interesting tech!

So it goes.

Last edited by 709 : 2005-06-20 at 09:30. Reason: attempted a title fix: Solar Sailed? That just didn't sound right after my morning coffee...
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curiousuburb
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2005-06-20, 12:03

IIRC, this is actually the 2nd solar sail to fly...

The Japanese put up a working prototype a few years back, though technically suborbital

and the Russians have had at least one inconclusive attempt.

Last edited by curiousuburb : 2005-06-20 at 12:07.
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Amadeus
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Join Date: Apr 2005
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2005-06-20, 19:08

I wish them great success on the launch tomorrow. Could be the beginning of a new method of space flight.
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LudwigVan
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2005-06-20, 21:43

Isn't it conceivable, if not probable, that this form of propulsion could move a craft at or near the speed of light? I believe I read that somewhere way back when, but I'm not confident in my memory.
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ast3r3x
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2005-06-20, 21:47

So will I be able to see this from Pennsylvania?
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drewprops
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2005-06-20, 22:23

I dooku so hope that I'll be able to see it from my moisture farm.
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curiousuburb
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2005-06-20, 22:24

Quote:
Originally Posted by ast3r3x
So will I be able to see this from Pennsylvania?
Viewing tips
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curiousuburb
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2005-06-20, 22:28

Quote:
Originally Posted by LudwigVan
Isn't it conceivable, if not probable, that this form of propulsion could move a craft at or near the speed of light? I believe I read that somewhere way back when, but I'm not confident in my memory.
Theoretically possible to get beyond .9c, but with diminishing returns as distance to source increases.

Quote:
In order for sunlight to provide sufficient pressure to propel a spacecraft forward, a solar sail must capture as much Sunlight as possible. This means that the surface of the sail must be big – very big. Cosmos 1 is a small solar sail intended only for a short mission. Nevertheless, once it spreads its sails even this small spacecraft will be 10 stories tall, as high as the rocket that will launch it. Its eight triangular blades are 15 meters (49 feet) in length, and have a total surface area of 600 square meters (6500 square feet). This is about one and a half times the size of a basketball court.

For a true exploration mission the requirements are far greater: when a NASA team in the 1970s, headed by Louis Friedman, suggested using a solar sail spacecraft for a rendezvous with Halley’s comet, they proposed a sail with a surface area of 600,000 square meters (6.5 million square feet). This is equivalent to a square of 800 meters (half-mile) by 800 meter – the size of 10 square blocks in New York City!

Even with such a gigantic surface, a solar sail spacecraft will accelerate very slowly when compared to a conventional rocket. Under optimal conditions, a solar sail on an interplanetary mission would gain only 1 millimeter per second in speed every second it is pushed along by Solar radiation. The Mars Exploration Rovers, by comparison, accelerated by as much as 59 meters (192 feet) per second every second during their launch by conventional Delta II rockets. This acceleration is 59,000 times greater than that of a solar sail!

But the incomparable advantage of a solar sail is that it accelerates CONSTANTLY.
A rocket only burns for a few minutes, before releasing its payload and letting it cruise at a constant speed the rest of the way. A solar sail, in contrast, keeps on accelerating, and can ultimately reach speeds much greater than those of a rocket-launched craft. At an acceleration rate of 1 millimeter per second per second (20 times greater than the expected acceleration for Cosmos 1), a solar sail would increase its speed by approximately 310 kilometers per hour (195 mph) after one day, moving 7500 kilometers (4700 miles) in the process. After 12 days it will have increased its speed 3700 kilometers per hour (2300 mph).

While these speeds and distances are already substantial for interplanetary travel, they are insignificant when compared to the requirements of a journey to the stars. Given time, however, with small but constant acceleration, a solar sail spacecraft can reach any desired speed. If the acceleration diminshes due to an increasing distance from the Sun, some scientists have proposed pointing powerful laser beams at the spacecraft to propel it forward. Although such a strategy is not practicable with current technology and resources, solar sailing is nevertheless the only known technology that could someday be used for interstellar travel.

from here
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BarracksSi
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2005-06-21, 00:09

Hmm... how do I say this...

Oh yeah -- "Subscribed".

Still getting the Saturn thread, too.. lol
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drewprops
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2005-06-21, 23:09

Last I checked they weren't getting telemetry from the Cosmos I, which is never a good sign for a spacecraft designed to communicate with the ground. The launch scheme seemed strange to me - perhaps the organization of the enterprise more than the technique of the launch. Hope it made it up there, not holding my breath though.

Just read that they suppose that it could be in an "unplanned orbit" due to issues with the ICBM. Maybe there's a very surprised looking sheep farmer in Queensland who's wondering why a satellite just landed on his flock.

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Last edited by drewprops : 2005-06-21 at 23:14.
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curiousuburb
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2005-06-22, 00:25

Latest Update
Quote:
9:40 pm PDT (4:40 UTC, June 22):
Tracking Station Data Suggest Cosmos 1 in Orbit
Close reviews of telemetry data received at two ground stations appear to reveal weak signals from the Cosmos 1 during the first hours after the launch. The two signals were discovered independently at the Majuro portable station and the permanent station at Panska Ves through a close analysis of the data collected by the receivers around the time of the expected contact with the spacecraft.

According to Cosmos 1 Mission Operations Manager Jim Cantrell, and Planetary Society Chairman of the Board Bruce Murray, this is a strong indication that Cosmos 1 did make it into orbit around the Earth, though quite possibly not the orbit it was intended for.

In an official statement released at this time The Planetary Society said: We continue to search for the Cosmos 1 spacecraft. We have reviewed our telemetry recordings and have found what we believe are spacecraft signals in the data recorded at the tracking stations in Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka and Majuro, Marshall Islands. The review of data received at the tracking station in Panska Ves, Czech Republic also appears to indicate a spacecraft signal. If confirmed, these data will indicate that Cosmos 1 made it to orbit. We will continue to monitor planned telemetry sessions and will be working with U.S. STRATCOM (Strategic Command) to locate Cosmos 1.
Clearly not in the orbit they wanted, but if it's high enough and just off alignment, they should still be able to deploy. We should have more info in a few hours as they nail down the orbit.
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drewprops
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2005-06-22, 08:11

Just saw a story on CNN that says that the booster rocket failed and that the Cosmos was lost. Aftermath deductions now in full effect.
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709
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2005-06-22, 09:28

I keep hearing conflicting reports. Some are saying they both crashed into the Barents Sea, others are saying that they're getting signals from orbit (although exactly what orbit is still anybody's guess).

I'm crossing my fingers.

So it goes.

Last edited by 709 : 2005-06-22 at 10:19.
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Amadeus
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2005-06-22, 19:17

Very sad news, the inability to contact the vehicle isn't good. Hopefully they will learn form this and try again.
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Sir Mac o' the Isles
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2005-06-23, 08:26

Well- that's bluidy typical. Helll mend them. As if they couldnae hae included some solar powered oars in case o' just such emergencies.
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709
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2005-06-23, 11:50

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