Tuesday, 10 Nov, 2009 Technology

Satellite that Harnesses Solar Energy to Debut in 2010


Recently a non-profit organization for space exploration, Planetary Society, stated that in 2010 it looks forward to send its satellite called LightSail-1 into outer space. The most important fact of the project is that the satellite will be powered by solar energy, the latter being harnessed by solar sails.

The device will be much lighter than other satellites, around 11 pounds, due to the fact that it won't carry fuel. In addition, it is to be the first out of three satellites in the program that looks forward to provide evidence that solar sailing can be widely used in the field. After the launch, the satellite will stay close to the planet, but with each new mission, engineers will launch their devices further into space.

With open sails, LightSail-1 will span six meter across. The satellite is composed of three small cubes, two of which hold the sail while the third one holds the controls along with electronics. It will feature four triangle-shaped aluminized Mylar sails, each being a quarter as thick as a trash bag. It is worth mentioning that the light from the sun features protons that carry momentum. When they hit the satellite's sails, the latter push LightSail-1 further into space. The technology resembles the one we can observe on Earth when the wind conveys the momentum into the sails of a boat.

Researchers think that it is too yearly to talk about carrying humans on a LightSail craft, mainly because such task would require technology that has not yet been developed. But there's still hope. At the end of 2010 Planetary Society hopes to send LightSail-1 on a planned mission with an American or Russian spacecraft. This might not be so difficult, considering the light weight of the satellite.

Posted by greendan80

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