Solar sails are all about "propellantless" propulsion — using photons from the Sun (as opposed to an onboard fuel supply) to push a spacecraft through space. Building on the lessons learned from smaller solar sail missions, like NASA's NanoSail-D and JAXA's IKAROS, NASA is gearing up to to launch the biggest solar…
Less than two months after being unfurled in space, Japan's IKAROS solar sail accomplished its ambitious aim—becoming the first spacecraft to travel in space, powered by the sun. Now, it's demonstrated its fine steering ability.
Good news for the Little Japanese Solar Sail That Could, as the first images of the solar sail spread out in full deployment have been snapped. All is going according to plan, says the space agency, and "flying" looks possible.
The 20meter (diagonally) solar sail Ikaros we mentioned last month has been successfully unfurled in space by its Japanese team. Now it's a waiting game to see if it can be used for solar-powered travel as planned.