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Space test of solar sail fails

Space test of solar sail fails

作者:汝鲇岖  时间:2019-03-06 01:13:00  人气:

By Jeff Hecht The first test of a solar sail in space has failed after the spacecraft did not separate from the final stage of a Russian rocket. The 30-minute suborbital test was supposed to try out a key technology for unfurling the panels in the solar sail, but instead crashed in Kamchatka. However the test sponsors, the Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, do not want to halt their plans for a full-scale mission later in 2001. “I am optimistic that we can keep on schedule to launch Cosmos 1, the first solar sail spacecraft,” said Bruce Murray, president of the Planetary Society. Solar sails are large, low-mass structures pushed by light pressure rather than rocket fuel. Tilting the sails changes their course, like a sailboat. Once launched above the Earth’s atmosphere, sunlight can propel them as far as Jupiter’s orbit. Powerful laser beams could push them over longer distances. Advocates say solar sails will make interplanetary trips faster and cheaper for lightweight vehicles, but they have not been demonstrated in space. The test module was on board a recycled Russian ballistic missile launched from a submarine. It comprised two 15-metre frames that were to inflate at a peak altitude of 412 kilometres, deploying two thin mylar panels designed to catch sunlight. Cameras on a separate instrument capsule were to film the process, for recovery when the capsule landed in Kamchatka. However, the Planetary Society said instruments detected unexpected “dynamic variations” in the third stage of the rocket, and on-board software blocked the command that was to separate the solar sail module and camera capsule from the rocket. Early analysis of telemetry indicates the rocket, test module and instrument capsule returned to Earth together without separating. Later analysis showed “they recorded a small seismic event, which meant it came in pretty hard,” destroying the instruments, said John Garvey of the Planetary Society. “If you get a seismic event, that generally means bring your shovel,