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NASA Set To Launch Solar NanoSail Into Space

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the solar-powers-activate dept.

NASA 104

An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this year the Japanese space agency successfully deployed and used a solar sail to propel its spacecraft Ikaros, and now NASA announced plans this week for its own solar sail mission. This fall it will launch the NanoSail-D into orbit 400 miles up with a Minotaur IV rocket. Once deployed, it will orbit for 17 weeks, proving the technology and allowing astronomers to snap lots of photos."

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The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33311620)

This is what NASA has come to? A me-too approach?

Sad.

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311656)

NASA built the worlds first solar sails [wikipedia.org] anyway.

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312542)

I read your Wikipedia link, and while Project Echo demonstrated solar sail effects, it wasn't used as a solar sail. From what I can tell, it was more of an unwanted side-effect than anything:

"As far back as 1960, photon pressure played orbital soccer with the Echo 1 thin-film balloon in orbit, pushing its orbit around with astonishing force until the balloon's skin shattered. The shards were then flung far and wide by sunlight." Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8291710/ [msn.com]

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (3, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312930)

Wrong Wikipedia link, he should have shown http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_sail#Solar_pressure_demonstrated_for_attitude_control [wikipedia.org]

Solar sailing was used for spacecraft attitude control on the Mariner ten [nasa.gov] mission to Venus and Mercury

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (1)

tuxgeek (872962) | more than 4 years ago | (#33315750)

From TFA they say this craft, assuming with sail deployed, will be in orbit for 17 weeks
How exactly does a sail work when going into the wind?
I already know the answer, but just checking for a pulse here ..

I think a better test would be to send the next probe out to mars using the solar sail idea.

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33317922)

How exactly does a sail work when going into the wind?

probably the same way sailboats can sail into the wind?

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33311972)

the beginning of a whole new space race?

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (4, Insightful)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311984)

Isn't that why NASA was founded? To be America's 'me-too' reply to Sputnik.

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (4, Interesting)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312158)

Isn't that why NASA was founded? To be America's 'me-too' reply to Sputnik.

Ahh - no!

NASA was founded because leaving it with the armed forces didn't make a lot of sense when you're politically saying space exploration is for peaceful purposes and that we don't want to militarize space.

And as for the "me too", the US allowed Sputnik to be launched first to specifically allow the Russians to establish a precedence of space-based overflights as not violating a countries airspace. If the US had wanted to, they could have beaten the Russian's by almost a year but were very afraid the Russians would create international ire and allow the Russians to establish space-based airspace by precedence.

You need to keep in mind, this all happened just as the nuclear arms race was just kicking into overdrive. The US President ask the Russians for unilateral overflights to monitor each other's nuclear forces as a means of nuclear arms control. Russia told the US to get bent.

When spies informed the US of Russia's Sputnik development, a plan was hatched. The US immediately mothballed Wernher von Braun's orbital plans so as to allow Russia first orbital access. At the same time, US funding for the Navy's failure of a rocket project received additional funding. The Navy's project was far, far, far behind that of both the Russian's and von Braun's efforts which means it provided for the perfect cover - the US was behind the Russians.

Their plan worked perfectly save exactly one aspect. The completely under estimated the US public's reaction to the perception the US was far behind the Russians in space technology. This ignores the fact that von Braun's rocket was removed from storage, taken directly to the launch pad, a successfully launched a satellite into orbit. The satellite, I might add, which was carried around in the back of one of von Braun's associates' car for many months prior to de-mothballing of their project.

Imagine how entirely different the world would be today if the US had not allowed the Russians to be first in orbit.

Spinning much? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33315086)

US's actions seem to contradict your story,

"Once U-2 units became operational, two units were deployed to Europe and one to the Far East. The first U-2 overflight of the Soviet Union occurred on 4, 1956. Leaving from Wiesbaden, Germany, the pilot Harvey Stockman flew over Poland, Belorussia, and the Soviet Baltic, before returning to Wiesbaden" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_U-2

So, US shit scared of the Russian with their "permissions" for overflight *YET* they managed to produce a spy plane for the explicit purpose of overflights?? Then they used such aircraft prior to the Russian Sputnik story you are spinning?

The Army's Redstone-based proposal would likely be first ready for a first satellite launch. Its connection with German-born scientist Wernher von Braun, however, was a public relations risk - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanguard_rocket

The U.S. Navy had been tasked with building a rocket to lift satellites into orbit, but the resulting Vanguard rocket launch system was unreliable. In 1957, with the launch of Sputnik 1, there was a growing perception within the United States that America lagged behind the Soviet Union in the emerging Space Race. American authorities then chose to utilize von Braun and his German team's experience with missiles to create an orbital launch vehicle. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wernher_von_Braun

So, it seems they didn't want von Braun from attempting his launch not for reasons you cite, but for PR reasons. But once Russians launched (which was *unexpected*), US stopped giving a shit about PR and media spin and went to von Braun to go ahead as fast as possible. Vanguard project was also accelerated at same time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_crisis

Why a crisis and sudden acceleration in funding for all space related things if they wanted Russians first in space? Heck, US wouldn't even be able to compete for the Moon if von Braun was successfully assassinated by the SS (Nazi plan was to kill him and his team rather then allowing enemy to get their research) or captured by Soviets instead.

But I guess you can spin your story any way you like. The bottom line was,

    1. US didn't want a Nazi to build the first US rocket
    2. US thought they were *years* ahead of Russians anyway, so no problem with US delays
    3. oops, "Sputnik"
    4. oops, "Gagarin"!!
    5. GTF to the Moon NOW! - Kennedy.

Russians were preparing to launch for the Moon at about same time as Apollo 11. They were few weeks behind and scrubbed after successful landing of Apollo 11. They didn't want to be "2nd".

Re:Spinning much? (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33317458)

US's actions seem to contradict your story,

Only if you're an idiot.

So, US shit scared of the Russian with their "permissions" for overflight *YET* they managed to produce a spy plane for the explicit purpose of overflights?? Then they used such aircraft prior to the Russian Sputnik story you are spinning?

The Russians always knew when we did overflights. It pissed them off bad! Which means your idiotic counter argument is that what really happened, never happened, because creating an international indecent with a nuclear power is a good thing! Moron!

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#33315104)

And as for the "me too", the US allowed Sputnik to be launched first to specifically allow the Russians to establish a precedence of space-based overflights as not violating a countries airspace.

[citation needed]

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33317398)

The Navy's rocket in development was called, Vanguard [wikipedia.org] . You can read the teaser from NOVA which also documents the actual events rather than the widely known and incorrect version of history. [pbs.org] Last time I looked, there was also some of this video on You Tube, but I'm not sure what all is included in those videos. There are also several books on the topic. IIRC, the documentary also has a couple of the authors/historians that wrote some of those books. So sources can likely be obtained.

If you do a little leg work for yourself, I'm sure you can find additional information.

And if my assertion sounds so odd that you feel compelled to say, "citation needed", it strongly suggests you know nothing of history from that era. If you had known anything from that era, learning the history of events would hardly be anything more than, "neat, I didn't know that." Is allowing Russia to set space precedence really surprisingly in the least given Russia's politics and growing nuclear escalation? Most historians agree, "no", not in the least.

Rant begins...yet again...and again...and again...
And for the record, this is not a research paper. This is slashdot. I have no idea how you can confuse the two. "Citation needed", makes you appear silly. It is the cry of the Internet's dumb and lazy. Ya, I know everyone is doing it... Doesn't make it right or intelligent. Given the context, you're declaring you're too lazy and ignorant of the current topic to be bothered to improve yourself. If its my job to educate you by providing references outside of reference material and researched material, as in do your research to improve your knowledge, I expect to paid. Otherwise I've done all the work to cure your ignorance and I receive nothing as a benefit. That makes me your teacher. So as your teacher, go research the topic so as to cure your ignorance. There might be a quiz later.

There are better ways to ask than to make lazy demands like, "citation needed", as if implying people owe you something while you hold steadfast to your laziness; while concurrently, impolitely, declaring, "Bullshit! Prove it!" Search engines exist for a reason. The fact this has not yet occurred to you, speaks poorly of you. I strongly suspect you can do better. /rant

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#33317688)

And if my assertion sounds so odd that you feel compelled to say, "citation needed", it strongly suggests you know nothing of history from that era.

I not only know the history of the era, I lived through it. As far as my request for evidence goes, you're the one making the extraordinary claim, not me; it's up to you to provide evidence, not me to go hunting for proof you were right.

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33317888)

Surprising? Sure. Different history than taught in school? Yep! Extraordinary? Hardly.

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33312674)

Um. No. Nanosail-D is several years old and has been waiting for its launch.

Second launch for Nanosail D (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312960)

Um. No. Nanosail-D is several years old and has been waiting for its launch.

In fact, this is the second try at launching it. The first try [scu.edu] was lost in the failure of the Falcon-1 vehicle, August 2 2008.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/smallsats/nanosaild.html [nasa.gov]

Re:The Apollo crews would be ashamed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33316230)

NASA attempted it several years ago. It was on one of the falcon 1 flights that did not make orbit (it was a free flight to NASA), so the mission was lost. Had it been successful, then NASA would have been the first. [wikipedia.org] Likewise, Mars planetary Society attempted a launch on a Russian launcher, and using NASA tech. Sadly, that launcher was lost as well. So, japan hit it first because of launch glitches. Hopefully, OSC has better luck with Minotaur, but they have had almost as many loses as the Chinese have had (not quite that bad, but approaching it).

Personally, if I were you, I would be worried that most if not all of your teachers know how totally stupid you are. You have access to Google, and wiki, and are incapable of doing a look-up. You must be as lazy as they come. I would have modded you down, but the truth is, that others will do it.

Space tourists? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33311674)

Is this all we are now, just "snapping lots of photos"?

Re:Space tourists? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311682)

Isn't it wonderful?

Re:Space tourists? (4, Funny)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311726)

They are making the brochure first.

Re:Space tourists? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33311994)

Is this all we are now, just "snapping lots of photos"?

Yeah the schools have been working on that for a long time now. We can't have real adventure like sending people into space to do new things anymore because someone could get hurt. We also can't encourage our best and brightest to dare to take risks and truly innovate because that might hurt the feelings of people who achieve less. Like those soccer games in the public schools where no one wins because merit-based competition might make someone who loses feel bad. So we snap lots of photos because that's nice and safe.

Re:Space tourists? (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312028)

It's a technology testbed, not a scientific instrument. That said, NASA and its affiliated institutions have probably done more science with photographs than most R&D departments have with million-dollar laboratories.

Re:Space tourists? (-1, Flamebait)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312364)

Don't forget, NASA is also supposed to be a Muslim outreach program [foxnews.com] .

Wouldn't it be great if NASA did something cool like land some equipment on Mars in preparation for a permanent base? Instead, they're spending millions flying kites.

Re:Space tourists? (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312582)

Yeah, but NASA can do the mission in just one photo-snapping probe. The Japanese had to launch two so they could take pictures of each other taking pictures.

Re:Space tourists? (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312602)

Near Earth space is currently under environmental rehabilitation. Previous programs failed to understand the fragility of the space environment; and now we must restrain ourselves in our exploration in order to allow near Earth space to heal. You may take as many pictures as you like; but please do not leave the path. Many wonderful brochures are available in the gift shop with pictures taken by professionals. Thank you; and thank you for visiting our National Parks.

CREATORS set to deploy newclear power/flash (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33311678)

clear 'sailing' from there on up. nothing 'new', but likely in with 'stuff that (really) matters.

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never a better time to consult with/trust in our creators. the lights are coming up rapidly all over now. see you there?

greed, fear & ego (in any order) are unprecedented evile's primary weapons. those, along with deception & coercion, helps most of us remain (unwittingly?) dependent on its' life0cidal hired goons' agenda. most of our dwindling resources are being squandered on the 'wars', & continuation of the billionerrors stock markup FraUD/pyramid schemes. nobody ever mentions the real long term costs of those debacles in both life & any notion of prosperity for us, or our children. not to mention the abuse of the consciences of those of us who still have one, & the terminal damage to our atmosphere (see also: manufactured 'weather', hot etc...). see you on the other side of it? the lights are coming up all over now. the fairytail is winding down now. let your conscience be your guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. we now have some choices. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on your brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

"The current rate of extinction is around 10 to 100 times the usual background level, and has been elevated above the background level since the Pleistocene. The current extinction rate is more rapid than in any other extinction event in earth history, and 50% of species could be extinct by the end of this century. While the role of humans is unclear in the longer-term extinction pattern, it is clear that factors such as deforestation, habitat destruction, hunting, the introduction of non-native species, pollution and climate change have reduced biodiversity profoundly.' (wiki)

"I think the bottom line is, what kind of a world do you want to leave for your children," Andrew Smith, a professor in the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences, said in a telephone interview. "How impoverished we would be if we lost 25 percent of the world's mammals," said Smith, one of more than 100 co-authors of the report. "Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," added Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general. "We must now set clear targets for the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out many of our closest relatives."--

"The wealth of the universe is for me. Every thing is explicable and practical for me .... I am defeated all the time; yet to victory I am born." --emerson

no need to confuse 'religion' with being a spiritual being. our soul purpose here is to care for one another. failing that, we're simply passing through (excess baggage) being distracted/consumed by the guaranteed to fail illusionary trappings of man'kind'. & recently (about 10,000 years ago) it was determined that hoarding & excess by a few, resulted in negative consequences for all.

consult with/trust in your creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." )one does not need to agree whois in charge to grasp the notion that there may be some assistance available to us(

boeing, boeing, gone.

Proving technology that already works? (4, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311680)

Nanosail D was originally to launch on one of the ill-fated Falcon 1 test flights, at which time it would have indeed been proving the technology. But now that JAXA have not only proved the technology, but applied it to interplanetary travel, it seems a bit moot.

Re:Proving technology that already works? (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311736)

Yup, seriously NASA, you're an embarrassment. Stop dicking around in low earth orbit like some tawdry commercial entity, replace your management with actual scientists, and go out and see the universe up close.

You want to prove the technology? Then send off an inster-stellar probe. Seriously, what are you waiting for, an invitation from Proxima Centauri?

Re:Proving technology that already works? (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311920)

NASA have already sent five probes out of the solar system. Both pioneers, both voyagers and New Horizons. Thats a pretty good record IMHO.

And before you use a solar sail in deep space it makes sense to test one in low earth orbit. Its cheaper that way.

Re:Proving technology that already works? (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311960)

It never makes sense to use a solar sail in LEO, because below about 800km or so altitude the drag force of the remnants of the atmosphere apply more pressure than sunlight does. Below 800km, you've not got a solar sail you've got a parachute.

Re:Proving technology that already works? (2, Interesting)

smallfries (601545) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312224)

Unless your mission is designed to test the deployment of the sail, and the effect of the sail on de-orbiting the satellite when the mission is done.

Re:Proving technology that already works? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33318018)

Yep that silly old NASA, Good job you pointed that out, otherwise they'd never have noticed. Not like their the experts or anything?

Re:Proving technology that already works? (-1, Troll)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312120)

If you're honestly going to pretend that you don't know that I was talking about sending off "interstallar lightsails" then you're just a filthy fucking troll. Please suck my balls then die in a fire.

And doing what "makes sense" is exactly what's holding NASA back. Every desk in NASA should have this on a plaque:

We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and to do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Re:Proving technology that already works? (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312212)

Did baby drop toys out of pram?

Re:Proving technology that already works? (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312298)

Interstellar light sails won't be much use to us until we can build infrastructure to boost them out of the solar system. Inside the orbit of (say) Mars, however they could be quite useful once we get our act together. Maybe Mercury will be our first serious outpost away from Earth.

Doing the hard stuff was easier when NASA had a blank cheque to spend. Now they don't. They need to take baby steps and make every bit of research count.

Re:Proving technology that already works? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33318366)

How can i vote your comment up ?

Re:Proving technology that already works? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33313188)

None of which have conclusively left the solar system yet. Depending on your definition of the solar system. The generally accepted definition is the point at which the solar wind reaches equilibrium with the interstellar medium. Meaning that the speed of the solar wind is the same as the speed of the interstellar radiation. This point is called the heliopause. The Pioneer 10 probe was passed by voyager 1 which makes it the furthest object ever launched by man, and the voyager 1 probe has only crossed the helioshock region. This is where the solar wind slows to subsonic velocities. It is unknown when exactly the probe will cross the heliopause, but it is certain that it has not done so yet. So, that mean that no man made object has yet left the solar system, barring currently classified tech, alien intervention, lost Earth history such as Atlanteans, Jewish zombie carpenters who could perform "miracles", other mythical hullaballoo, etc. Don't get me wrong, these are the most likely to do so, but have not as of yet.

Re:Proving technology that already works? (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33314348)

So you think "real scientists" wouldn't see the need for this technology demonstration? Because in their highly scientific view they'd see no difference between this and what the Japanese did, and thus no need to test those non-existent differences?

It's not NASA that's an embarrassment.

Re:Proving technology that already works? (2, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311852)

Proving new technology is just too risky.

Reinventing the wheel is now a long term objective.

Re:Proving technology that already works? (1)

ihatejobs (1765190) | more than 4 years ago | (#33313698)

We can make it rounder dammit!

Re:Proving technology that already works? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312852)

Maybe it's just me, but one flight hardly 'proves' much of anything. Doing something once is a stunt, and can happen by chance. Being able to do something repeatedly and reliably proves that it wasn't.

Re:Proving technology that already works? (2, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#33313356)

Nanosail D was originally to launch on one of the ill-fated Falcon 1 test flights, at which time it would have indeed been proving the technology. But now that JAXA have not only proved the technology, but applied it to interplanetary travel, it seems a bit moot.

Not at all. If you don't want to actually use technology in space, but just want to get points for saying "I flew the first one," then one flight is fine. If you're actually going to use technology, though, a first demo flight is just the beginning of the development and testing stage, not the end. Pretty much everything about Nanosail D is mechanically and structurally different from the IKAROS sail; in terms of physics, they are similar, but in terms of technology, they are very different. IKAROS is held out by spin, for example; this makes for a solar sail that is not very maneuverable. Nanosail is strut stabilized, this is a sail that can be redirected much more easily (for example, to use for orbit-raising).

They are also not merely different technologies, they are very different mission types-- Nanosail-D is (as its name implies) a demo of a very small sail. Some applications are there for small sails; some are there for medium sails, and there are also a lot of applications for huge sails-- kilometers and larger, which still have to be demonstrated. Saying "we launched one sail once, now the technology is fully developed at all sizes and for all missions" is just ignoring the real world of technology, where every step needs developing and testing.

Finally, the IKAROS sail doesn't demonstrate very low specific mass, which is the key to practical propulsion. Nanosail-D is about three times better.

Saying "a solar sail flew once, so the technology is developed and it's moot to launch another one" is about as accurate a comment as saying "A horseless carriage was tested in 1801 so the technology is demonstrated and it's moot to demonstrate a different one."

Re:Proving technology that already works? (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#33315956)

IKAROS is capable of adjusting its attitude whilst spinning, through the use of LCD panels on the sail which subtly alter its albedo and thus the effect of light pressure, so you are wrong on at least that note.

Of course IKAROS changes the situation. At the original launch date, the solar sail was an untried technology and thus NanoSail-D was innovative. Now the Japanese have a sail flying to Venus, a NASA solar sail mission should be updated based on what they have learned from IKAROS. Your analogy of horseless carriages in 1801 only holds water if people are still producing ones based on primitive steam engines (instead of more sophisticated ones or internal combustion engines) years later.

I fully approve of NASA launching a solar sail mission, I just think its pointless in the light of the success thus far of IKAROS to launch the same one they were planning to launch years ago.

Yes, it's useful to try different approaches (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#33318386)

IKAROS is capable of adjusting its attitude whilst spinning, through the use of LCD panels on the sail which subtly alter its albedo and thus the effect of light pressure, so you are wrong on at least that note.

I said IKAROS was not very maneuverable. "Subtly altering its albedo and thus the effect of light pressure" is a very good description of a vehicle that's not very maneuverable. There may be useful applications in which a not-very maneuverable sail is a good technology. Different applications need different technologies.

Basically, IKAROS and Nanosail-D are quite different in the details of the technologies for sails. Apparently you think that once any sail has ever been deployed that every other approach should be abandoned, but that's not actually a good way to develop things.

--In fact, I hate to disappoint you on this, but if sails are ever going to become practical, there are going to have to even more test flights.

Re:Yes, it's useful to try different approaches (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#33319070)

Unless you are building an orbital weapon system (or a telescope to catch transient astronomical events like GRBs) super fast attitude changes are not really needed.

IKAROS is as maneuverable as any spacecraft realistically needs to be, and I promise you that future solar sails will be build using its attitude control method will be used over the 'bendy sails' method.

Everything I have been taught about spacecraft design, by people who have all designed hardware used on orbit, says that you choose a solid state system over one with moving parts every single time. Mechanically moving the sail to alter the attitude is a complex technique that only has use for faster attitude changes, and in such applications you would use faster, more established, and simpler thrustsers or momentum wheels.

Like I said, its good for NASA to look to solar sails, but they should update their mission by looking to the solar sail that is currently flying to Venus

Re:Yes, it's useful to try different approaches (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#33319928)

I am a great fan of no-moving-parts technologies. Nevertheless, from a lot of experience in the space world, I can tell you that it is not true that a technology with no moving parts is always the engineering choice over a technology with moving parts. There are many systems currently flying in space that do have moving parts, even though they could be redesigned, worse, using systems without moving parts. The correct solution is to use the technology that is best for the mission.

The problem is that if you spin the sail to provide stiffness, the sail is a gyroscope, and with a gyroscope it is difficult to change the angular momentum vector-- that is, to repoint the sail. It's not the low value of the control torque (although the control torques for IKAROS are in fact very low) it's the angular momentum.

Apparently, however, I'm not going to convince you. Nevertheless, it turns out to be valuable to test more than one technology in space, and that simply picking the first thing to fly is not always the best thing.

Technology development doesn't work that way! (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33314116)

It's not enough to known that the concept works, you have to demonstrate that your version works. Their satellite is not exactly the same as Ikaros, for example it uses a different deployment method.

Think about it in terms of any other technology in existence, and bask in the obviousness.

Planetary Society LightSail?! (3, Interesting)

jfanning (35979) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311696)

This seems to be almost exactly the same as the Planetary Society's LightSail project, http://www.planetary.org/programs/projects/solar_sailing/ [planetary.org]

And I think that LightSail was started because NASA gave up on the NanoSail-D project. So what gives? Did NASA change their mind about this and what about the LightSail project?

Re:Planetary Society LightSail?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33314010)

LightSail may have had some impetus because the nano-sail project was threatened, but it is merely an extension of the Cosmos 1 sail project that the Planetary Society attempted to launch on a Russian Cosmos rocket in 2005.

From your link:

After our first solar sail, Cosmos 1, was lost, we asked our members, "Should we try again?" We heard a resounding, "Yes! Go for it!" So we kept investigating all the possibilities, and now, thanks to your continued support -- including the million dollar donation – we've assembled a great mission team of top engineers and scientists, and we're moving ahead.

Had the rocket not failed on launch, it is possible that the Japanese Ikaros would have been the second successful solar sail project. And all nations would have been beaten by a world-wide civic group. Of course, the launch vehicle failed and the Planetary Society's notoriety as "first" is only in the realm of Science Fiction. The Japanese engineers built a fine vessel.

"D" (5, Informative)

nomad-9 (1423689) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311768)

And here's the answer to the question everyone wants answered: What does "D" stand for?
"We chose the 'D' in the name, not because it came after models A, B, and C, but because it can stand for demonstrate, deploy, drag, and/or de-orbit."
- Edward "Sandy" Montgomery. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

Re:"D" (3, Interesting)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311970)

Maybe they just prefer Picard over Kirk.

Re:"D" (0, Offtopic)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312114)

"We chose the 'D' in the name, ..., but because it can stand for demonstrate, deploy, drag, and/or de-orbit."

Dumb!

Screw the solar (1)

rtbyte (1523785) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311834)

Screw the solar. It's such a massive fragile structure and it has so low acceleration and minuscule force so it can only push/pull a small/light vessels. Why not test nuclear engines ? Are we so afraid of little nuclear radiation that will probably be undetectable because the earth is bombarded with so much radiation already ? The cold war is (kind of) over. We should stop fearing the *NucleaRrRr* (I just shit my pants) power and start using it to really take off our space programs. Chemical power is a joke. It's a proof of concept overused. Solar sails are of very limited use at most.

Re:Screw the solar (5, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311862)

Nuclear engines make less sense than you might think because they are limited by the amount of reaction mass you can carry. You might have enough fissile material to run a reactor for a year but only enough reaction mass for a day or so, at the very best, so most of the energy you are carrying is going to be lost.

Solar sails work anywhere you have sun light and can easily work for years.

Having said that I think there is an argument for using small fission reactors to power ion engines. A power plant like that could be used for a flight to Titan. The reactors could be similar to those use on submarines, so the technology would be mostly COTS.

Re:Screw the solar (4, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312050)

It's not widely appreciated, but honest-to-God nuclear reactors for satellites were developed during the cold war by both sides. The US only got as far as a solitary flight test AFAIK but I believe the USSR got some into operation. Quite an advantage in having a spy satellite with no solar panels.

Re:Screw the solar (4, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312098)

I believe the USSR got some into operation.

Yep [wikipedia.org]

Re:Screw the solar (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312648)

Attach to an asteroid and mine reaction mass from that.

Re:Screw the solar (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312762)

Well yeah but this is not like cruising around on Earth. If you want to get to Titan you won't find any asteroids going that way. So you have to kill your velocity. Mine reaction mass, then use the reaction mass to get going again. You might wind up with a net zero gain. Heading to Titan slowly with empty tanks.

Re:Screw the solar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33313212)

Solar sails make less sense than you might think because they are limited by the amount of sunlight that reaches them. You might have enough sunlight to run a sail for a day or so, at the very best, then you need to build massive orbital lenses and mirrors. At that stage, what's the point? If you have the energy to launch massive structures like that, just launch a classic rocket-powered probe and be done with it.

You Space Nutters are so cute when your fetish sci-fi delusions are threatened.

Re:Screw the solar (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#33313912)

I call bullshit on your post. Nuclear batteries can easily power a ship for 1-2 months,10-20 years, 100-200 years ... The whole advantage of nuclear batteries (which is what they're called, btw, you don't even seem to know the name) is their extremely long life. Furthermore, they have a half-time, so even after their theoretical lifetime (which is generally taken less than even 1 half time) they still provide quite a bit of power.

And the total power they can provide is MUCH higher than solar panels (at least in earth orbit). Furthermore they're not subject to tons of mechanical problems that plague solar panels. A nuclear battery will operate anywhere. It may be dusty, it maybe far from the sun (you can't power the voyagers by solar power), if may be obscured, ...

And as I said before, for equivalent power they're much lighter than just the solar panels themselves, ignoring that having a nuclear battery means you don't need batteries, engines, and much less restrictions on craft design.

Nuclear batteries are infinitely superior to solar panels. Too bad they're also so expensive (and dangerous) they're only really an option for big governments.

Not that wikipedia's much of an authority but here's their take on it [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Screw the solar (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33319064)

You mean radioisotope thermoelectric generators. Sure they are used but nuclear rockets generally mean something like the NERVA which is essentially a lightweight reactor with an open cooling circuit, which gives you rocket thrust. RTGs are stable technology. Very easy to handle. Just like the pile of caesium sources in the physics lab at college. NERVA engines give people nightmares. They are impossible to test properly on the ground, and dangerous for the crew.

My suggestion is to use a fairly stock standard fission reactor, similar to the ones the Russians used on satellites, then use it to power an ion drive.

Re:Screw the solar (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#33315492)

True but a Nuclear engine will also let you get more out of your fuel than basic chemical will, the most basic designs give substantially higher Specific Impulse as well as thrust

Re:Screw the solar (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#33316212)

True but a Nuclear engine will also let you get more out of your fuel than basic chemical will, the most basic designs give substantially higher Specific Impulse as well as thrust

First part true - even a basic NERVA can manage 800-900 seconds Isp.

Second part false. Thrust from a nuclear rocket is pathetic compared to a chemical rocket. That same basic NERVA was rated at 15000 pounds thrust, as opposed, say, to the F1, which had 1,500,000 pounds thrust.

Of course, an Orion qualifies as both "nuclear" and "high thrust". But odds of anyone approving the building of one are about zero. Unless we need one to deal with an alien invasion, of course....

Re:Screw the solar (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33319004)

Unless we need one to deal with an alien invasion, of course....

Thats why those plans are tucked away...

Re:Screw the solar (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#33316128)

The reactors could be similar to those use on submarines, so the technology would be mostly COTS.

Umm, no. Submarine reactors depend on having an ocean around them to cool the secondary system (the part that generates electricity). Not many oceans between here and Saturn.

Re:Screw the solar (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33318974)

The reactors could be similar to those use on submarines, so the technology would be mostly COTS.

Umm, no. Submarine reactors depend on having an ocean around them to cool the secondary system (the part that generates electricity). Not many oceans between here and Saturn.

Yes you would need a cooling circuit with big radiator fins. Gets better as you move away from the sun.

Re:Screw the solar (1)

rtbyte (1523785) | more than 4 years ago | (#33318182)

Limited they are not. There is so much reaction mass in the solar system. Have You notice there are 8 planets plus planetoids plus hundreds of moons and asteroids ? Yea reaction mass could be even the moon dust. and You need just enough to accelerate and decelerate to say Mars. BTW how to You decelerate with solar sails ? You bring them down and wait for water friction to slow you ? Oh wait no water, but hey the cosmic particles and radiation might slow you , eventually, after few thousand years, may be, if you are lucky. Of course you can try to pull the atmospheric breaks , but with solar sails and humans on board , better be You than me. And try to atmospheric break on a moon or asteroid. I wish You luck ;)

Re:Screw the solar (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33319084)

Sure but you have to stop to pick the reaction mass up and that wastes energy, time, and reaction mass.

Re:Screw the solar (1)

rtbyte (1523785) | more than 4 years ago | (#33319696)

Waste energy You will. But plenty of energy You have ;) . You seemed to mindfully jump over my question "How do you decelerate the solar sail when You reach your destination". And I'm not speaking about some fictional 'other solar system' but inside our own. I really wander which mindless drones voted your comment +5 and would they want to strap them to a solar sail and let them fly to the 'next solar system' to decelerate ;)

Re:Screw the solar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33321012)

This is comparing apples and oranges.

Existing nuclear engines are high thrust, whereas even the best ion engines are still very low thrust. They have very different usage cases and selection would depend on mission requirements.

For manned or short duration flight, nuclear engines are presently ahead of any ion alternatives.

There are some serious engineering issues in scaling up an existing ion reactor up for a high-thrust/short duration mission.

Large scale ion propulsion requires a sizable nuclear generator, which are presently large, heavy and generate a lot of heat. That energy is converted to electrical, and then the ion engine also generates a lot of heat. Currently this requires orders of magnitude reductions in power to weight ratios for nuclear generators, massive increases in efficiency, or unfeasibly massive radiators to dissipate all that wasted heat.

However for a direct nuclear engine, a large part of this heat is directed into the reaction mass and not wasted. Feasible nuclear engines were designed and tested in the 60s. In some areas these were limited by materials, and modern materials would increase their performance further.

Re:Screw the solar (4, Informative)

strack (1051390) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311964)

you fail to recognise the very important fact that solar sails do not use reaction mass, so theres no fuel tank to run empty, so a solar sail will have thrust, and control over its own trajectory, for as long as the sun shines. and that, my good sir, is a very long time.

Re:Screw the solar (1)

isopossu (681431) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312552)

How about having a nuclear rocket with sails gathering particles for reaction mass?

Re:Screw the solar (0, Redundant)

silverpig (814884) | more than 4 years ago | (#33314838)

Except it doesn't work when you get far away from the sun...

Re:Screw the solar (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 4 years ago | (#33314956)

Yeah, but by that time you should have already gained enough speed that you don't need the constant thrust any more. Then you get to use the next star you get to for deceleration.

Re:Screw the solar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33315946)

Ahh ahaha hahahaahaha1!!!! Yeah, a million years later! And STILL no life extension technology!

Re:Screw the solar (1)

Minion of Eris (1574569) | more than 4 years ago | (#33317316)

I believe the term you are struggling for is Bussard Ram - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bussard_ramjet [wikipedia.org]

Re:Screw the solar (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 4 years ago | (#33317546)

Not really, no...

I was thinking more 'solar sail'.

Re:Screw the solar (1)

Minion of Eris (1574569) | more than 4 years ago | (#33318094)

sorry, could have sworn i saw a comment in the thread about using the sail itself to capture reaction mass. That made me think to the ram. The ultimate use of these, of course, would be to add drag to a couple of comets (say one nickle-iron and the other H2O), and drop them into near-lunar orbit for processing (I would have said near-earth, but the idea of that would freak some people out), you could even use a sail as the mirror for the solar kiln to melt the ore. For those about to ask - the reason you want to use this meathod to get water to your workers is the insane amout of money it costs to boost the stuff from our gravity well. One litre = one kilo, cost vary from USA, Athena 2 (2065kg to LEO): $11622 per kg to Russia, Shtil (430kg to LEO): $465 per kg, but I wouldn't trust to low-ball offer.

Re:Screw the solar (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 4 years ago | (#33318260)

That may be one of the technologies we use into the future, but the (comparatively) simple solar sail seems like a very good and very now technology for more deep space probes.

Also, it conjures up old-timey notions of sailors courageously sailing off into the unknown. Nothing but the stars to guide them, nothing but the wind to help them on their way. We can only hope to find land before our rations run out.

Re:Screw the solar (1)

rtbyte (1523785) | more than 4 years ago | (#33318060)

Go to the NASA site and check the size of a sail needed to move a single manned craft. Then what was the formula - twice the distance 4 times less power ? Solar sail can be used on some small craft on an out of solar system mission which would last 100+ years. But for a human space flight or larger craft they are a joke. If you want to reasonably accelerate something bigger than a Kinder Surprise toy You will need a sail half the earth size (keep in mind that a highly scientific calculation so don't argue about it ;) ). And when You get to Mars in 2 days guess where You'll get your reaction mass - too hard for You huh ? How long will it take even on ginormous solar sail ? My guess is when astronauts grand children will be in college if they leave in their 20ies ;)

japanese icarus? (2, Interesting)

ingilizdili (1882996) | more than 4 years ago | (#33311936)

Why, in the first place, do eastern nations, developing or develop, adopt names from western culture. I believe the japanese have thousands of mythical characters of their own. ingilizdili [ingilizdili.net]

Re:japanese icarus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33312154)

Greece is in the Eastern Hemisphere. And Americans love Eastern culture just as much.

Re:japanese icarus? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33314540)

I wasn't there so I may not be giving the subject the respect it deserves but the Japanese intentionally Americanized their culture (but conciously, and in pieces, not wholesale) after they suddenly developed a great deal of respect for us in WWII. You can see the careful deliberation in details down to the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture (presumably it was palatable due to the influence of Japanese architecture on Frank Lloyd Wright) and the colors and designs used in corporate logos adopted during this period. Obviously, the relatively recent widespread success Anime and Manga provide excellent example of a reciprocal influence.

GNAA is dead (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33311982)

Are you GAY?

Are you a NIGGER?

Are......

Oh forget it. I hereby renounce the GNAA and everything it stands for.

-weev

hi (-1, Offtopic)

juliawells20 (1883036) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312034)

That would be amazingly well written article here. i really enjoyed it. I feel happy being here. Thanks for the update. http://www.worldpixelmile.com/ [worldpixelmile.com]

NanoSail? What's so nano? (2, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312084)

Before reading TFA, an amusing idea of NASA sending a sail just 1 nm wide crossed my mind. After the can't be reaction, I though they are going to use nanometer thick sails, and wondered what they are made of? Graphene sheets maybe?

Turned out that is not:

NanoSail-D has a surface area of more than 100 square feet and is made of CP1, a polymer no thicker than single-ply tissue paper.

Rrright... It's like... say... an ISP providing a "broadband package" with speed no lower than 56 kbps.

Unless it is a helluva-lot thinner than a tissue paper, what's so Nano in this sail?

Re:NanoSail? What's so nano? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33312312)

Duh, it weight less than 0.05 nanograms per square micrometer!

Re:NanoSail? What's so nano? (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312784)

The imagination of the people who designed it?

Re:NanoSail? What's so nano? (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#33314078)

Unless it is a helluva-lot thinner than a tissue paper, what's so Nano in this sail?

"Nano" is a Greek work meaning "tiny" or "dwarf".

A nanosail would mean a tiny sail, or a "dwarf" sail.

Unless you put the word "meter" or "gram" or some other quantitative suffix on the word, in which case it means 1E-9.

Re:NanoSail? What's so nano? (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 4 years ago | (#33314986)

So it would be 1E-09 sails? How does that even work?

Re:NanoSail? What's so nano? (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#33314510)

Typically 'nanosat' refers to small, inexpensive, quick to develop satellites. Normally its applied to cubesats and the like, but its not an unusual term to indicate that a spacecraft is a small, cheap tech demonstrator.

As someone who works in the field the name is highly descriptive to me, and gives me a good deal of insight into the nature of the spacecraft.

bad idea (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 4 years ago | (#33312938)

Hmm, a gian, thin space sail that's probably several square miles. Boy, I sure hope one single little chunk of orbital debris or meteor doesn't impact that gigantic area in the 2 weeks or it won't work so well. Sails tend to not like meteors impacting them. Too bad the odds of that happening are about 99.99999%. I don't know what they're thinking.

Micrometeoroids- not a problem [Re:bad idea] (2, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#33313852)

Hmm, a gian, thin space sail that's probably several square miles. Boy, I sure hope one single little chunk of orbital debris or meteor doesn't impact that gigantic area in the 2 weeks or it won't work so well. Sails tend to not like meteors impacting them. Too bad the odds of that happening are about 99.99999%. I don't know what they're thinking.

Actually, solar sails are almost completely unaffected by small impacts by micrometeoroids or debris. The micrometeoroids go right through. They do leave a hole, which reduces the area of the sail by a trivial amount, but sail areas are so large, and micrometeoroids so small, that it would take decades to centuries before the effective area loss reduces performance significantly.

If a micrometeoroid impacts the struts or support structure, of course, that may be more of a problem, depending on how redundant the structure is (and how big the impact-- but micrometeoroids are small, and debris is not much of a problem in interplanetary space, where sails are most likely to be used). Of course to make a sail lightweight, the support structures had better account for only an extremely small fraction of the sail area.

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33315522)

I recon it takes a man capable of rational thought to be to able to predict and deal with such occurrences?

Solar Sail Durability (1)

MrMe (172559) | more than 4 years ago | (#33313322)

"One of the most difficult challenges solar sails face is trying to deploy enormous but fragile spacecraft from extremely small and compact structures. We can't just attach a giant, fully spread sail to a rocket and launch it into space. The journey would shred the sail to pieces," said Dean Alhorn, NanoSail-D principal investigator and aerospace engineer at the Marshall Center."

Space is always described as "hostile" - since solar sails are believed by some to be the only feasible option for interstellar space travel, which will require them being in space for a long time, what are the plans for improving their durability? It seems over time they would be shredded.

Re:Solar Sail Durability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33314244)

What about plans for improving the durability of humans? We're fragile, short-lived and prey to hundreds of diseases.

Re:Solar Sail Durability (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33314622)

Anything with a good surface area to mass ratio makes a good solar sail. Reflectivity is a plus since you actually get more motion out of it, but it's not required. So you could imagine some kind of spines which ooze with a self-patching material like a self-patching tire, growing a flat plane of tiny whiskers that serve as the sail area. I mean, if you've read enough science-fiction, or are just imaginative enough. Right now, though, our technology lends itself more to unfurling sheets of stuff. Or maybe we could GMO that radiation-thriving fungus that was found on Mir into growing us a big, thin sail that would be self-replenishing.

fir5t 4ost (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33313584)

FrreBSD used to LOCATING #GNAA, between each BSD they started to

Prime Directive (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 4 years ago | (#33314826)

What the heck does this have to do with making the Mislims feel good about themselves?
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