News Archive

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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 [[Web Links#Past Missions | 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.