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Japan Launches Solar Sail

Japan successfully launched the world’s first solar sail. Basically it a large thin sail that catches radiation and over time accelerates, indefinitely. The acceleration is slow as inertia needs to be overcome, and extremely large sails would have to be used to move a ship. But with no need for fuel, it is a first step towards deep space probes.

Institute of Space and Astronautical Science | JAXA:

“ISAS succeeded in deploying a big thin film for solar sail in space for the first time in the world.

ISAS launched a small rocket S-310-34 from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima, Japan, at 17:15, August 9, 2004 (Japan Standard Time). The launch was the culmination of a historic new technology, and the success this time has really made a great achievement in the history of solar sail.

A solar sail is a spacecraft without a rocket engine. It is pushed along directly by light particles from the Sun, reflecting off its giant sails. Because it carries no fuel and keeps accelerating over almost unlimited distances, it is the only technology now in existence that can one day take us to the stars.”

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