Wednesday, 17 Mar, 2010 Science
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Japan Presents World's First Solar-Powered Space Yacht

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The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has recently presented a prototype of the first solar-powered sail spacecraft in the world.

The space yacht, dubbed Solar Sail, was unveiled at a news conference. Presented by the Japanese officials, the solar-powered spacecraft is about 5 feet in diameter and navigates by making use of an ultra-thin membrane made of polyimide resin, which collects solar energy. It is worth mentioning that the sail of the spacecraft is 20 meters in a diagonal line and is 0.0075mm thin.

The membrane features solar cells along with attitude control device and special sensors for scientific observations.

Currently the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency is studying two missions to examine the performance of the thin solar sails. During the first mission the engineers will launch a spacecraft called IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun).

Although the sunlight in outer space is rather weak, the Japanese researchers believe that it would be enough to power the spacecraft. It is expected that IKAROS will be launched on May 18 along with Japan's first Venus Climate Orbiter "AKATSUKI."

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