TOKYO, July 13 (UPI) — The first test in space of a “solar sail” propulsion system for spacecraft has been a success, researchers in Japan say.
Measurements gathered from the Ikaros solar sail, built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, confirmed the spacecraft is gaining speed from light radiated by the sun, SPACE.com reported Tuesday.
“The small solar power sail demonstrator ‘Ikaros,’ which successfully deployed its solar sail, was confirmed to accelerate by [the] solar sail receiving solar pressure,” JAXA officials said.
A solar sail provides propulsion from the cumulative push of light photons striking the sail, a small continuous thrust that does not require fuel use by the spacecraft.
JAXA engineers measured sunlight pressing on the probe’s solar sail with a force of about 1.12 millinewtons (0.0002 pounds of force), SPACE.com reported.
The square-shaped Ikaros sail measures 46 feet wide and 66 feet diagonally. It is the first solar sail to actual fly on an interstellar mission.
The Ikaros, short for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun, was launched in May.
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