Tuesday, July 13, 2010

JAXA Confirms Solar Sail is Working!

the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has confirmed that the solar sail spacecraft IKAROS is indeed being accelerated by photons emitted from the Sun, which means the solar sail really works!

The spacecraft is showing an acceleration from the solar wind pressure on the order of 1.12 milli-Newtons, which was the predicted value (a Newton is a unit of force, representing the amount of net force required to accelerate a mass of one kilogram at a rate of one meter per second per second). So, the Sun is exerting a force on IKAROS of just over one-thousandth of a Newton every second.

That sounds like very little, and it is. But remember that we're not talking about speed, we're talking about acceleration. So even though this will get the craft off to a very slow start, with every passing second the craft will be going a little faster, and after a while it will have picked up considerable speed.

Read more about IKAROS here.

1 comment:

  1. Constant acceleration. Now all we have to do is find a cheap inexpensive lite weight fuel for the initial push and you have the beginnings of interstellar propulsion.