News Archive

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NASA Selects CubeSail Mission for CubesSat Space Mission Candidate

NASA selected the CubeSail mission by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and CU Aerospace as a potential candidate for flight under it's CubeSat Launch Initiative. CubeSail would test a new solar sail design based on long, thin ribbons of sail material with small satellites at the ends to steer them.

See Also:

--Ben 17:13, 13 March 2012 (EDT)

Solar Sail Readies for Early Warning Mission

YouTube video about NASA's solar sail technology demonstration mission from the NASA Marshall TV channel.

--Ben 12:25, 12 December 2011 (EST)

Flying on Sunshine

The September 10th issue of ScienceNews covers recent developments in solar sailing.

--Ben 14:02, 29 August 2011 (EDT)

NASA Announces Technology Demonstration Missions

NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist has selected L'Garde to test fly a 38x38m solar sail as a technology demonstration mission. The mission will deploy a sail 4X larger than L'Garde tested previously on the ground (20x20m), use solar torque for steering, and test accurate navigation required for missions.


--Ben 14:45, 22 August 2011 (EDT)

NASA Technology Solicitations Announced

The NASA Office of the Chief Technologist released solicitations for technology development in three areas:

--Ben 10:22, 3 March 2011 (EST)

First NanoSail-D Pictures Taken

The first pictures have been taken of NanoSail-D from the ground by observers in Finland, Sweden, and Argentina.

See Also

--Ben 14:42, 3 February 2011 (EST)

IKAROS Completes Regular Operations

JAXA announced that IKAROS completed regular operations, after accomplishing all of its primary mission goals. Notably, navigation by solar pressure, power generation by the thin-film solar panels attached to the sail, and steering by solar torque. IKAROS is in good condition and continues to sail around the sun.

Also see the picture of Venus IKAROS took during it's flyby December 8, 2010.

--Ben 13:15, 26 January 2011 (EST)

Draft NASA Technology Roadmaps Open for Comment

The National Academies are reviewing NASA's technology roadmaps, and are currently soliciting public comment.

--Ben 10:39, 26 January 2011 (EST)

NanoSail-D Photo Contest

Amateur astronomers, NASA and have partnered to offer prizes for the best photos of NanoSail-D. The contest runs until NanoSail-D re-enters Earth's atmosphere, estimated at 2-4 months from now.

--Ben 10:14, 25 January 2011 (EST)

NanoSail-D Deployed

NanoSail-D successfully deployed. After some uncertainty from an earlier attempt December 6th, 2010, NASA reports that NanoSail-D ejected from FASTSAT on January 17th, 2011, and successfully deployed on January 20th. Congratulations to the NanoSail-D team on a successful mission!

--Ben 01:49, 23 January 2011 (EST)


--Ben 10:14, 25 January 2011 (EST)

NanoSail-D Status: Unclear whether NanoSail-D deployed from FASTSAT

Telemetry from FASTSAT indicated successful ejection of NanoSail-D (see NanoSail-D ejected from FASTSAT). However, NASA reports that they have not been able to confirm this. NanoSail-D has a radio beacon and was scheduled to deploy the sail on December 9th, 2010, neither of which has been observed. The FASTSAT team is investigating.

--Ben 14:28, 13 December 2010 (EST)

NanoSail-D ejected from FASTSAT

NanoSail-D ejected successfully from FASTSAT on December 6th, 2010, at 1:31am EST. The 3x3m sail is set to deploy on a timer 3 days after ejection. There is no word yet on reception of NanoSail-D's radio beacon.

--Ben 10:00, 7 December 2010 (EST)

NanoSail-D to launch Friday, November 19, 2010

Launch of NanoSail-D is planned on Friday, November 19, 2010 from the Kodiak, Alaska, Launch Complex, and will deploy from NASA's FASTSAT. NanoSail-D will test deployment of a 10 square-meter (100 square-foot) solar sail from a 10x10x30 cm CubeSat. The mission will also test deorbit using the sail, because atmospheric drag at the low altitude will likely dominate light pressure. This is the backup spacecraft to the original NanoSail-D, which was lost when the Falcon-1 rocket it was on failed to reach orbit in 2008.

See Also

--Ben 10:13, 18 November 2010 (EST)


The Minotaur IV launch vehicle successfully reached orbit, and released the FASTSAT spacecraft. NanoSail-D will eject from FASTSAT in 7 days, and the sail will deploy in 9 days.

--Ben 20:54, 19 November 2010 (EST)

NanoSail-D is go for ejection from FASTSAT on Monday Dec 6 2010 at 12:15am CST (6:15am UTC).

--Ben 22:05, 5 December 2010 (EST)

Ejection should have occurred. It may take as long as a few hours to determine via ground tracking if the ejection succeeded.

--Ben 01:22, 6 December 2010 (EST)

Second International Symposium on Solar Sailing Completed in Brooklyn, New York

The Second International Symposium on Solar Sailing ran from July 20-22, 2010, in Brooklyn, New York. The conference marked a remarkable step forward in the field of solar sailing. Several talks were given on Japan's IKAROS spacecraft, which was celebrated for demonstrating a solar sail spacecraft for the first time, and continues to sail on to Venus. Other talks described several small solar sail "nanosatellites" under development, which are planned to fly over the next few years. Other talks covered recent advances in understanding solar sail orbits, hybrid solar sail / solar electric missions, missions to test relativity, climate & weather observation, space weather, communications, alternative sail designs, and others. Refer to the conference website for abstracts, program, proceedings, and (coming soon) the presentations.

--Ben 14:58, 2 August 2010 (UTC)


--Ben 15:10, 17 August 2010 (UTC)

IKAROS Demonstrates Attitude Control with Solar Pressure

The IKAROS mission succeeded in steering using solar pressure. As the sail spins, liquid crystal devices along the edges change from reflective to non-reflective. Sunlight pushes harder on the reflective panels, so that one sail edge is pushed harder than the other, causing the sail to turn. Spacecraft like Mariner 10 have used solar pressure to point them before.

--Ben 14:45, 2 August 2010 (UTC)

IKAROS Acceleration by Solar Pressure Confirmed

Press release (English) Press release (Japanese)

JAXA confirmed that the IKAROS spacecraft has generated the expected acceleration from the pressure of sunlight. This effect has been predicted for over a century since James Clerk Maxwell's studies of electromagnetism. Every spacecraft flown since Sputnik has been affected, to varying degrees, by sunlight pushing on it. Several missions have used solar pressure to their advantage. This is the first time a spacecraft specifically designed to propel itself on sunlight - a true solar sail - has done so. Congratulations to the IKAROS team on their accomplishment! I look forward to seeing what else IKAROS will accomplish in the days to come.

See Also

--Ben 20:28, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

IKAROS Attitude Control System Imaged In Action (Press Release in Japanese) (Google translation to English)

JAXA's IKAROS project released images taken of the sail with the attitude control actuators active. The actuators consist of thin-film LCD panels along the edge of the sail which change reflectivity. While reflective, the panels reflect more sunlight and generate more thrust at the edge of the sail. While non-reflective, they generate less thrust. By phasing which side of the spinning sail is more or less reflective, they should be able to turn the sail. The images show the LCD panels alternating between reflective and non-reflective.

--Ben 19:53, 28 June 2010 (UTC)

LightSail-1 Passes Critical Design Review

LightSail-1, the Planetary Society's new ultra-light Cubesat-based solar sail spacecraft, has passed its Critical Design Review. At a two-day meeting in Pasadena, a team -- including JPL project veterans Bud Schurmeier, Glenn Cunningham, Viktor Kerzhanovich, and Aerospace Corporation's Dave Bearden -- reviewed the LightSail-1 project from soup to nuts and gave us the thumbs up to proceed with building the spacecraft's hardware and software.

--Ben 15:52, 28 June 2010 (UTC)

Images Taken of Fully Deployed IKAROS Solar Sail

A small camera with an antenna was ejected from the IKAROS solar sail spacecraft and took images of the fully deployed sail on June 16, 2010.

--Ben 17:30, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

IKAROS Solar Sail Deployment Successful

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency succeeded in deploying the IKAROS solar sail. Deployment began June 3rd 2010. On June 10th 2010, they confirmed that the sail was deployed. Congratulations to the IKAROS team!

--Ben 17:26, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

IKAROS Deployment Completed (Correction: Deployment Continuing)

The IKAROS Blog (Google translation to English) reports that the promary deployment of IKAROS has been completed, with a deployment length of 5.3m and deployed size of 10m from end to end.

See Also

--Ben 16:08, 4 June 2010 (UTC)

Correction: IKAROS deployment is still underway. The sail is being deployed in stages, with the state of the sail and spacecraft verified along the way. --Ben 15:32, 7 June 2010 (UTC)

First Stage of IKAROS Sail Deployment Completed

According to the IKAROS Blog, the sail deployment sequence has begun. There is a English press kit available, which shows the deployment sequence on page 7. Tip mass separation was completed previously. It now appears that the 1st stage of sail deployment has been completed: release of four strips of folded sail material. Final deployment is planned for tomorrow, where the folded sail material is released into the final square shape.

See Also

--Ben 17:46, 3 June 2010 (UTC)

IKAROS Deployment Beginning

The Planetary Society Blog reports that the cameras on the IKAROS spacecraft captured images of deployed tip masses on May 28, 2010, that will help hold the spinning sail flat once it is fully deployed. Deployment of the sail will occur soon.

See Also

--Ben 18:57, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

IKAROS Moves to Verification Experiment Stage

May 24, 2010 (JST)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) completed the initial check of the Small Solar Power Sail Demonstrator "IKAROS," which was launched on May 21, 2010 (Japan Standard Time,) from the Tanegashima Space Center. We will take a few weeks to carry out the first verification experiments, namely deployment of the solar sail and solar power generation by thin film solar cells.

See Also

--Ben 14:33, 25 May 2010 (UTC)

The Operation Status of the Small Solar Power Sail Demonstrator 'IKAROS'

May 22, 2010 (JST)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) acquired the signal transmitted from the IKAROS at the Usuda Deep Space Station and confirmed its solar power generation and stable posture, and established communications. We will turn on onboard devices one by one.

See Also

--Ben 13:22, 25 May 2010 (UTC)

AKATSUKI and IKAROS ready for launch

JAXA is preparing to launch AKATSUKI (Venus Climate Orbiter) and IKAROS on May 17, 2010, at 21:44:14 UTC (May 18 6:44:14am Japan Standard Time, May 17 5:44:14pm Eastern Standard Time). A live broadcast will begin 30 minutes prior to launch.

More coverage

--Ben 05:17, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

Mission Updates

  • Countdown Report - X-60 minute countdown began 4:44pm EST May 17. All systems go. --Ben 21:06, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Live coverage has begun --Ben 21:17, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Launch postponed due to weather conditions. --Ben 21:40, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
  • AKATSUKI and IKAROS launch delayed to May 20 21:58 UTC (May 21 6:58am JST, May 20 5:58pm EST) --Ben 12:51, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
  • 1 hr 24 minutes until the next launch attempt. 1 hour until live coverage begins. --Ben 20:34, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Live broadcast has started. 37 minutes to next launch attempt. --Ben 21:20, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • 10 minutes and counting --Ben 21:48, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Liftoff of IKAROS and Akatsuki! --Ben 21:59, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Payload fairing has separated. 1st and 2nd stage have separated. 2nd stage engine has ignited. --Ben 22:08, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • The second stage is in low Earth orbit (LEO) and has deployed 3 small satellites. --Ben 22:18, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • The second stage burn to inject Akatsuki and IKAROS on a trajectory to Venus has finished. Akatsuki has separated from the launch vehicle. --Ben 22:27, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Jettison of the support structure for Akatsuki which covers IKAROS is coming up, followed by separation of IKAROS from the 2nd stage. This update from Spaceflight Now. --Ben 22:39, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
  • IKAROS has separated from the launch vehicle. Congratulations to the IKAROS team on a successful launch! --Ben 22:45, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

JAXA releases detailed video overview of the IKAROS mission

JAXA has released a detailed video describing all aspects of the IKAROS mission and spacecraft on YouTube. The video is in Japanese, but should be easy to follow for non-Japanese speakers.

--Ben 15:50, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

UK firm plans sails to clean up space

Researchers at the Surrey Space Center and EADS Astrium are working on a 5x5 meter solar sail nanosatellite called Cubesail, planned for launch in 2011, to demonstrate removal of debris from Earth orbit.

Other coverage

--Ben 18:35, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

AKATSUKI and IKAROS open to the media

The media was invited to view the AKATSUKI and IKAROS spacecraft. IT Media has several pictures of the two spacecraft.

--Ben 18:13, 15 March 2010 (UTC)


--Ben 14:26, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Launch date of the Venus Climate Orbiter "AKATSUKI", carrying the IKAROS solar sail, set for May 18, 2010

The Venus Climate Orbiter "AKATSUKI" (Planet-C), carrying the IKAROS solar power sail demonstrator, is scheduled to launch on an H-IIA launch vehicle on May 18, 2010, at 6:44:14 AM from Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center.

--Ben 19:53, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

The Second International Symposium on Solar Sailing (ISSS 2010) will be held July 20-22, 2010, at the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York

"The symposium will focus on recent advances in solar sailing technologies and near-term solar sailing missions. The topics to be addressed include dynamics analysis and testing of solar sails, advanced materials and structural concepts of solar sails, space environmental effects and a solar spacecraft protection, solar spacecraft charging, enabling technologies, concepts, dynamics, navigation, control, modeling, mission applications, and programs."

--Ben 22:39, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

The Planetary Society: Solar Sailing Messages from Earth

Submit your name and a message to fly on LightSail or IKAROS --Ben 17:02, 31 December 2009 (UTC)

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center: NASA and Contractor Team Develop One Fast Satellite

FASTSAT-HSV01 (Fast, Affordable Science and Technology Satellite) is the first of a series of small satellite platforms intended to carry multiple small instruments and experiments at low cost on a variety of launch vehicles. NanoSail-D, previously attempted on a Falcon-1 test flight, is one of the initial experiments of this new satellite platform. --Ben 16:55, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Spaceflight Now: Two solar sailing trials readied for launch next year

Article about the IKAROS and LightSail 1 missions planned for launch in 2010. --Ben 15:55, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

ABC News picked this item up.

Planetary Society planning 3-mission solar sail project

The Planetary Society announced the project LightSail to fly three solar sails of increasing size and complexity over the next several years. An anonymous donor provided funding for the missions, which will begin with LightSail-1, a 3-meter square sail deployed from a 10x10x30cm Cubesat. This is similar to NASA's NanoSail-D. LightSail-2 will be larger and have increased sailing ability out of Earth orbit. LightSail-3 is intended to sail to the sun-Earth L1 Lagrange point to demonstrate solar wind monitoring for geomagnetic storm forecasting. The Planetary Society previously attempted to test fly a solar sail in the Cosmos 1 mission.

Other coverage:

--Ben 15:15, 10 November 2009 (UTC)

More coverage:

--Ben 15:59, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

Even more coverage:

--Chris 11:55, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

IKAROS papers presented at the 27th International Symposium on Space Technology and Science

Several papers on the IKAROS solar sail mission and Japan's solar sail research in general were presented at the 27th International Symposium on Space Technology and Science and made available. Links to these papers are available on the IKAROS page. --Ben 15:11, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

Space Politics: A call for reviving NIAC

Space Politics story on a report by the National Research Council on the effectiveness of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC). The report recommends resinstatment of the program. NIAC, closed in 2007, funded revolutionary aeronautics and space concepts, including solar sails and related technologies. --Ben 19:59, 2 October 2009 (UTC)

Crunch Gear: They now use solar technology to propel satellites

Crunch Gear story on JAXA's IKAROS solar sail project. Also see JAXA's Japanese language summary of the project:

--Ben 20:02, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

The Times Online: 'Sailing' spacecraft could keep watch on Earth's polar regions

A Times Online story about polar observation and space weather applications of solar sails in artificial Lagrange orbits from a talk by Prof. Colin R. McInnes at the British Science Festival in Guildford. --Ben 14:30, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Update: The Guardian also carried the story:

--Ben 19:28, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

StarTalk Radio Show: What's Exploration Worth?

StarTalk page. Louis Friedman, director of the Planetary Society, joins Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye to discuss the value of space exploration. Solar sails are discussed at about the 46 minute mark. --Ben 17:55, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Discover: The Elegant Way to Save Earth From Asteroid Destruction

Discover blog. Discussion about using gravity tractors to deflect asteroids, including Prof. Bong Wie's proposal to use solar sails as the tractors. --Ben 15:35, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

MIT Technology Review: the physics arXiv blog: Relativistic Navigation Needed for Solar Sails

MIT Technology Review blog page. Discussion about the challenges of navigating a solar sail on a high speed escape from the solar system due to relativistic effects. --Ben 14:13, 8 September 2009 (UTC) First Solar Sail Might Soon Fly article. Story about the possible flight of NASA's spare NanoSail-D sail as a Planetary Society project. --Ben 14:31, 12 August 2009 (UTC) Ann Druyan: How to Sail Beyond the Moon Landings article. Ann Druyan discusses the future of space exploration, including solar sailing. --Ben 19:36, 13 July 2009 (UTC) Promising New Space Engines are Opening the Solar System

ESA video on advanced propulsion: "Electric ion engines; plasma drives, slingshot-style gravitational-assist maneuvers; ultra-light super-strong solar sails and other innovations are driving exploration forward beyond reliance on chemical rockets." --Ben 12:00, 27 May 2009 (UTC)

The Atlantic: Across the Universe

An article about The Planetary Society's efforts to fly another solar sail demonstration mission - Cosmos 2. Their previous attempt, Cosmos 1, suffered a launch vehicle failure. --Ben 12:00, 5 May 2009 (UTC)

Solar Sail Update: New Opportunities

Update on The Planetary Society's solar sail activities. From Space Travel. Also see: The Planetary Society --Ben 12:00, 3 April 2009 (UTC)

Review of Solar Sails: A Novel Approach to Interplanetary Travel

Review of the book posted on The Space Review. SolarSailWiki article: Solar Sails: A Novel Approach to Interplanetary Travel --Ben 12:00, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

MESSENGER to flyby Mercury 2nd time October 6th

MESSENGER Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab page. MESSENGER used solar pressure to correct the trajectory without using propellant. The multimedia page shows how solar sailing reduced the flyby target size. --Ben 12:00, 1 October 2008 (UTC)

MESSENGER Sails on Sun's Fire for Second Flyby of Mercury

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab press release. --Ben 12:00, 5 September 2008 (UTC)


May 27, 2009

May 5, 2009

April 3, 2009


October 6, 2008

October 1, 2008

September 5, 2008

August 25, 2008

August 2, 2008

July 31, 2008

June 27, 2008

  • The NanoSail-D mission is to be launched on or about July 29th, 2008.

June 23, 2008

March 18, 2008


December 11, 2007

June 27, 2007


October 16, 2006

February 22, 2006

  • Japanese infrared space observatory goes into orbit - Japan launched the ASTRO-F infrared telescope (now named "Akari"). A solar sail was a secondary payload, described (in Japanese) in the ASTRO-F/M-V-8 data sheet. From the article: "Another apparatus catching a ride to space aboard the M-5 rocket was a deployment test mechanism containing a solar sail made of aluminized polymer film that was supposed to deploy a maximum diameter of around 35 feet beginning just over eighteen minutes after liftoff. Two cameras positioned near the device would capture images of the critical unfurling of the solar sail for downlink to the ground. The experiment is a follow-up to a sub-orbital test conducted in 2004."

February 8, 2006

  • NASA's Centennial Challenges Program Seeks Input On New Prize Competitions. "NASA's Centennial Challenges Program released today draft rules for six new prize competitions. NASA is seeking external comments and collaborating organizations in order to finalize and initiate these Challenges. The six prize competitions encompass a range of capabilities and technologies, including: on-orbit propellant provisioning, lunar astronaut rovers, space suits, advanced power storage, orbital sample return, and solar sails."


November 14, 2005

  • Space Services Inc.: October 11 2005: NOAA Awards Space Services Inc. a Contract to Assess Next Generation Solar Wind and Advanced Telecommunications Space Systems. "A team led by Space Services Inc. (SSI), a client of the Houston Technology Center, has been awarded a contract from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to assess commercial opportunities in developing and deploying next generation solar wind and telecommunications space systems. The SSI team, comprised of private companies, will examine cutting edge technologies to achieve detection of solar storms."
  • The Planetary Society: September 30 2005: The End of Cosmos 1, the Beginning of the Next Chapter"September 30, 2005: Cosmos 1 was-and is-a great effort, and one we are proud The Planetary Society tried to do. Our independent grassroots organization built and launched a spacecraft whose technology promises to one day open up interstellar travel. ... With our members' support, we are raising funds to build and fly another solar sail, and we are seeking new sponsors."
  • JAXA: October 25 2005: Solar Radiation Pressure Force acting on Hayabusa Station Keeping "Hayabusa has kept its position controlled since it arrived at the Gate Position, 20 km from Itokawa. The biggest disturbance worked is the Solar Radiation Pressure force. The force is simply Light Force acting on everyone everyday. From bright walls, also from heaters, we receive this small force that is never felt on the ground. It is due to the photons that come from the Sun or anything illuminating. The force becomes large when the projected area becomes large and also when the exposed surface has high reflectivity. It is 1/100 with respect to the ion engines thrust, but ten times larger than the gravity of Itokawa at the Home Position."

August 4, 2005

July 21, 2005

  • NASA Science Mission Directorate: NASA Selects Advanced Technology Providers. Try the Google News story if you have trouble reading the official release. L'Garde was selected to conduct further studies of their solar sail technology for the next phase of the New Millenium Space Technology 9 (ST9) mission. After their studies and those of the other technology providers are complete, one technology will be selected to fly as ST9.
  • The Plain Dealer: Setting sail on sun-power research: Technology for space travel being tested in a vacuum in Sandusky, by Madison Park. Story no longer available. A story covering solar sails in general and the recent tests of L'Garde's 20-m square solar sail in the giant thermal-vacuum chamber at the NASA Glenn Plum Brook Station.
  • The Planetary Society: Volna Failure Review Board Reports on Loss of Cosmos 1. The Planetary Society executive director Louis Friedman comments on the results of the Volna launch failure review board.

June 26, 2005

  • The Planetary Society: Solar Sail Update, June 25, 2005: The Story of Cosmos 1 is Not Over: A Personal Report - by Louis Friedman. Planetary Society executive director and Cosmos 1 project manager Louis Friedman reflects on the Cosmos 1 mission. Despite losing the spacecraft to a launch vehicle failure, the project accomplished much. A solar sail spacecraft was developed, built, and launched in a partnership between a space advocacy organization and private enterprise. The press coverage was substantial and very positive. Stay tuned to the Cosmos 1 web page for future information.

June 18, 2005

  • The Cosmos 1 solar sail mission is set for launch on Tuesday, June 21, 2005. Various updates are available on their website including videos by Louis Friedman and Bill Nye and two updates under the "What's New" section as well as the Cosmos 1 Weblog.

May 24, 2005

April 25, 2005

March 10, 2005

  • A 58 MB 12-minute video on the Columbus 500 Space Sail Cup has been made available by one of the creators, Greg Granville. The video shows animations of several of the solar sail designs intended to compete in the the Columbus 500 Space Sail Cup, as well as introduction to solar sailing. Also includes a news segment from NBC on the Znamya space mirror and solar sailing. I have also placed a link to the video in Web Links#Documents.

February 10, 2005

  • The Planetary Society: Solar Sail Update, February 9, 2005: A Pre-Launch Review. All flight components have been delivered and tested, and a full mission sequence has been simulated with the flight computer. Some necessary corrections and fixes were done as a result of the testing. After reviewing the progress, the estimated launch period has slipped to some time in April, rather than March 1st to April 5th.

February 3, 2005

January 5, 2005


November 10, 2004

November 8, 2004

  • NASA's Centennial Challenges program has released two Requests for Information and one Announcement of Partnership Opportunity relating to upcoming challenges. The Announcement of Partnership Opportunity mentions "A station-keeping solar sail" as a potential Flagship Challenge - space missions with prizes ranging from millions to tens of millions of dollars.

August 25th, 2004

August 11th, 2004

August 10th, 2004

June 9th, 2004

  • The NASA Centennial Challenges program is holding a workshop from June 15-16th in Washington DC to gather ideas, develop rules and gauge competitor interest, and promote teaming of competitors for the various challenges. A session on solar sail missions is being held June 16th from 4-5pm.

June 3rd, 2004

May 5th, 2004

  • Team Encounter: Team Encounter president testifies before U.S. senate. Team Encounter President Charles Chafer testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation February 18, 2004 at a "field hearing" in Houston.


December 17th, 2003

  • LA Weekly: Quark Soup: Space(F)light: Sailing the solar wind to the stars - Margaret Wertheim reports on the Planetary Society's Cosmos 1 solar sail project, and solar sailing in general. Editor's note: The author correctly explains that solar sails are driven by sunlight. But, there is a "solar wind" that is different from sunlight. It is composed of charged particles, whereas sunlight is photons.
  • Reaching for Interstellar Flight - Leonard David reports on the difficulties of interstellar flight, and interviews Steven Howe of Hbar Technologies, who is developing the concept for one solution: the antimatter sail.

October 14th, 2003

  • Scientific American: Light Sails to Orbit - The November 2003 Scientific American reports on the Cosmos 1 solar sail mission. The story includes comments from NASA JPL engineers. Only available to subscribers.

September 26th, 2003

  • Ithaca Times: Solar Powered - Ithaca Times covers the Cosmos 1 solar sail mission, as well as a some solar sail history. Editor's note: While James Clerk Maxwell did first predict light pressure from his groundbreaking work on the electromagnetic wave nature of light, he did not discover photons. That was a discovery of quantum mechanics, which came much later.

September 15th, 2003

  • E4Engineering: Setting sail on a solar mission - E4Engineering reports on the solar sail development effort of the European Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center. They intend to construct a 20x20 meter prototype that is intended to be launced within the next two years. It may be launched on a Volna submarine launched rocket, like the Cosmos 1 mission. The German Aerospace Center has already built a number of prototypes, including a 20x20 meter ground demonstration sail.

"Analysis of the radio tracking data from the Pioneer 10/11 spacecraft at distances between 20 - 70 AU from the Sun has consistently indicated the presence of an anomalous, small Doppler frequency drift. The drift can be interpreted as being due to a constant acceleration of a_P = (8.74 \pm 1.33) x 10^{-8} cm/s^2 directed towards the Sun. Although it is suspected that there is a systematic origin to the effect, none has been found. As a result, the nature of this anomaly has become of growing interest. We have developed a concept for a deep-space mission that would reveal the origin of the discovered anomaly. A number of critical requirements and design considerations for such a mission are outlined and addressed. In particular we explore the use of a solar sail as a means to reach a great distance from the Sun in a short period of time."

"A solar sail mission to deep space could determine the density of the interplanetary medium by measuring the drag force on the huge sail with radiometric navigational data. Thus, a mission similar to the Interstellar Probe might consider retaining its sail beyond the orbit of Jupiter to measure the matter density in deep space. Such an experiment would a yield an independent, new type of measurement of the interplanetary medium and should be pursued."

September 10th, 2003

  • Fresh Spin on Solar Powered Asteroids - A new study in the September 11th 2003 journal Nature suggests that sunlight may have a significant and predictable effect on the spin of asteroids over long time periods. This is similar to the Yarkovsky effect which causes asteroids to drift off course, discovered in 1900 by a Russian engineer of the same name.

September 5th, 2003

August 19th, 2003

  • Cosmos 1: Solar Sail Launch Vehicle Passes Crucial Test - The Volna launch vehicle that will be used for the Cosmos 1 solar sail successfully tested seperation of an engineering model of the spacecraft from the third stage of the rocket. This was done after the Volna third stage failed to deploy during two previous suborbital launches.

August 7th, 2003

July 29th, 2003

"NOAA is supporting Team Encounter's assessment of the feasibility of flying our Team Encounter Flight One solar sail into a special orbit over the North or South Pole. Future solar sail spacecraft could fly in this orbit to better understand Earth's climate." Source: Team Encounter

"This past month, the first two stages of the Volna launch vehicle passed their re-qualification tests with our solar sail spacecraft. At the Makeev Rocket Design Bureau in Miass, Russia, the Cosmos 1 engineering model underwent vibration and other dynamical tests to simulate launch during the firing of the first and second Volna stages." Source: The Planetary Society


December 10, 2002

  • Solar Thruster Sailor presents a spacecraft design that combines solar sails and thrusters into a unique combination, as well as other space system concepts.

September 22, 2002

  • Robert L. Forward passed away on September, 21st, 2002. He was a good friend, mentor, and inspiration to myself and many others. Robert L. Forward Obituary is a message from Bob's partner at Tethers Unlimited, Rob Hoyt.
  • NASA awards funding to solar sail research. NASA's Office of Space Science gave three funding awards for solar sail technology development. The three projects are 'Development of a Striped-Net sail and Inflatable boom model' at L'Garde Inc., 'Development of a CP1 sail and Coilable boom model' at Able Engineering, and 'Development of an integrated set of solar sail simulation tools' at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

May 14th, 2002

  • Space Systems Engineering Group web page of the University of Glasgow Aerospace Engineering department includes many of the presentations given at the Royal Astronomical Society discussion meeting on Solar Sail Applications that took place on May 10th, 2002. There is also information on solar sail research.

April 20th, 2002

March 26th, 2002

March 14th, 2002

February 28th, 2002

  • Team Encounter is holding a preliminary design review on February 28th and March 1st 2002. Questions are solicited from the public on the project web site by 10am central time on March 1st.
  • Team Encounter and L'Garde performed successful tests on February 14th and 15th 2002 in Tustin, California, of the lightweight inflatable booms that will support the solar sails used on the Team Encounter spacecraft.

February 23rd, 2002

  • Team Encounter successfully tested the deployment of a sail segment on January 15th, 2002. L'Garde performed the test and is constructing the sail for Team Encounter. The sail is made of 1 micron aluminized Mylar, which is much thinner than any previously available sail films.

February 6th, 2002


November 18th, 2001

July 27th, 2001

  • The Cosmos 1 solar sail test vehicle was successfully launched from a submarine in the Barents Sea on July 20th. Unfortunately, the command to separate the test vehicle from the rocket was not issued, so the test deployment of two solar sail blades was not carried out. The Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios are still on track to launch the fully operational solar sailing vessel, Cosmos 1, at a later date.
  • The technology partners for Space Technology 7 were announced on July 20, 2001. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Swales Aerospace, Arizona State University, and AEC-Able Engineering were selected to provide technology for the solar sail segment. Space Technology 7 is a project under NASA's New Millenium Program

July 14, 2001

May 4, 2001

  • The Cosmos 1 Report reports that an accident during testing of the suborbital deployment test vehicle for their solar sail vehicle. Deployment pyrotechnics for the spacecraft went off, resulting in partial deployment on a test stand. The mission has been delayed until repairs can be made.

April 10, 2001

February 27, 2001

February 26, 2001

February 7, 2001


October 11, 2000

September 30, 2000

July 12, 2000

  • The Interstellar Probe is a mission proposal to send a solar sail propelles spacecraft out of the solar system at high velocity (14 AU/year). One of it's primary goals is to travel outside the influence of the sun's solar wind and directly measure the composition of interstellar space.

June 28, 2000

June 4, 2000

  • At the National Junior Science & Humanities Symposium on April 27-30 2000, Ulyana Horodyskyj won first place for her project, Sailing Into Space: Reflecting on a Solution. Ulyana has also won awards for her project at the Northeastern Ohio Science and Engineering Fair, Ohio Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, University of Akron District Science Day, and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

May 28, 2000

March 2, 2000

March 1, 2000

  • NASA's Vision: Probes At Stars by 2100 - A article about NASA's plans for interstellar missions in the next century. There is a discussion of solar sailing for this purpose, including an image of the trajectory used by a solar sail to escape the solar system at high speed.

February 29, 2000

February 22, 2000

February 8, 2000

January 19, 2000


December 23, 1999

November 17, 1999

September 14, 1999

September 10, 1999

June 14, 1999

  • Interworld Transport performed a test flight of their solar sail deployment hardware on May 23, 1999, on a JP Aerospace rocket test flight. The flight verified that the test hardware could survive launch stresses on the order of 30 G's. Later flights are expected to perform deployment tests.

June 7, 1999

May 14, 1999

May 5, 1999

April 9, 1999

April 8, 1999

March 15, 1999

March 10, 1999

February 16, 1999

  • The Sky Over Berlin, February 1999, discusses using a solar sail for a fast pluto flyby towards the end of the page.

February 5, 1999

  • NASA's budget for space science includes funding for gossamer spacecraft. Note this document requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. These are large thin film deployable structures, including solar sails. The document says on page 3, paragraph 2, that developing this technology will help NOAA and the USAF with their space weather and solar activity monitoring programs. NOAA and the USAF are developing GEOSTORMS just for this purpose.
  • The Znamya 2.5 space mirror experiment has been called off because the mirror became entangled with a communications antenna during deployment. Znamya 2.5 and the Progress cargo spaceraft which it is attached to be dropped into the atmosphere today. For further details, see the following articles:

February 4, 1999

  • I saw Mir and the Znamya 2.5 space mirror tonight at about 6:55 pm pacific standard time, about an hour after sunset from the countryside near Tacoma, Washington in the U.S. The two spacecraft rose from west by northwest and were separated by about 1 degree. The lead spacecraft was much brighter than any satellite I have ever seen, so I assume it was Znamya 2.5, even though the mirror did not fully deploy. About halfway across the sky, they winked out as they passed into Earth's shadow.
  • Znamya 2.5 space mirror failed to open today for its scheduled illumination test. The mirror snagged on an antenna of the Progress resupply spacecraft from which it was deploying. After two unsuccessful attempts to free the mirror and continue deploying it, mission controllers are considering ending the experiment.

February 3, 1999

January 13, 1999


November 1, 1998

  • Znamya-2.5 - The newest Russian space mirror, Znamya-2.5, was placed on the Russian Mir space station by a Progress M40 on October 25th. Follow the previous link for further details.

August 17, 1998

May 4, 1998

March 27, 1998

Try a search for "solar sail." The first couple pages of results are the most interesting.

January 26, 1998

  • DLR Solar Sail Homepage. The solar sail homepage has been updated with information about their research activities. Included is information about the ODISEE demonstration mission, Mercury orbiter and asteroid rendezvous missions, and sail structure technology. There are also numerous pictures of solar sail spacecraft.


December 12, 1997

  • GEOSTORMS. Link no longer available. A mission to levitate a solar storm warning spacecraft closer to the sun than the sun-earth L1 point using a solar sail. Look under "Smallsats" and "GEOSTORMS."

December 2, 1997

  • Solar Sail Project. This page describes a solar sail project currently underway at the Space Systems Dynamics Laboratory at Kyushu University in Japan. In Japanese.

May 14, 1997

February 10, 1997

January 7, 1997

  • Earth to Orbit Transportation Bibliography. Entry 32, the MOON-EARTH MOMENTUM EXCHANGE, discusses using solar sails to transfer mass between the Earth and Moon. Included is a picture of an orbital sail fabrication machine.

January 6, 1997


December 7, 1996

November 6, 1996

October 24, 1996

Discussion included use of inflatable solar sail structures.