Cosoms 1
June 21, 2005 10:36 AM   Subscribe

In just over two hours, Cosmos 1, the world's first experimental "solar sail" spacecraft will launch, and reportedly will be visible "from nearly everywhere on its surface at one time or another".
posted by theonetruebix (18 comments total)

"from nearly everywhere on [Earth's] surface"

posted by theonetruebix at 10:37 AM on June 21, 2005

Cordwainer Smith would be proud.
posted by sciurus at 10:43 AM on June 21, 2005

That was a good episode of Deep Space Nine where Sisco and his son go solar sailing.

Actually, this is really cool stuff.
posted by fenriq at 10:43 AM on June 21, 2005

I'm sailing away... Set an open course for the virgin sea..."
posted by keswick at 11:06 AM on June 21, 2005

Obligatory TRON link.
posted by brain_drain at 11:21 AM on June 21, 2005

Obligatory Count Dooku link
posted by Gamblor at 12:29 PM on June 21, 2005

Great title!

Also, the sails won't be opened immediately after launch. It'll be "several days" before they're open and Cosmos 1 is visible. Mission timeline. But it's neat, anyway. I hope it works. I'll try to catch a glimpse if I can.
posted by blacklite at 12:30 PM on June 21, 2005

keswick, I was thinking the same thing, but this part:

I thought that they were angels
But much to my surprise
We climbed aboard their starship
And headed for the skies!

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:45 PM on June 21, 2005

How bright and noticeable is it supposed to be?
posted by smackfu at 1:17 PM on June 21, 2005

I remember Echo 1, which was of a comparable size. That was the brightest satellite I ever saw. This one wil be hard to miss, even in a city sky.
posted by y2karl at 1:50 PM on June 21, 2005

I'm not an astronomy nut, but I'm pretty stoked about this. It's retro and futuristic at the same time.

Question for the resident physicists: Cosmos 1 has a lifespan of about a month, but it's a proof-of-concept for larger, more durable vehicles. Where are the brakes?
posted by mkultra at 2:15 PM on June 21, 2005


it was shot out of a russian nuclear sub! dag. how'd dey figure dat out?
posted by tarantula at 3:14 PM on June 21, 2005

This is so cool. Has anyone else read Jack Vance's exquisite short story "Sail 25"? I'm going to read it again tonight.
posted by interrobang at 3:34 PM on June 21, 2005

Malfunction fear for solar sail // Cosmos-1, The Planetary Society A solar sail spacecraft designed to use light from the Sun to travel through space may not have separated from its booster rocket, officials have said.
BBC News
posted by Schroder at 3:48 PM on June 21, 2005

Where are the brakes?

If you need brakes, that assumes you're traveling to somewhere. The only noteworthy destinations outside of our solar systems are stars, so presumably a solar sail craft would use the same mechanism for deceleration as it does for acceleration.

Mind you, breaking from 0.1 c is no joke. But then again, at that speed even our closest neighbour stars are 40 years away, so you'd have plenty of time to prepare.
posted by spazzm at 4:20 PM on June 21, 2005

Geez, I hope the thing made it up and is okay. Hate to see this one fail before getting a chance to spread out the sails and see if the acceleration actually happens.

As far as braking, well, once you get within a certain distance of the destination star, you basically just turn the ship around and let that star's light slow you down - turning the sail into a drag parachute. Making the sail steerable, like an earthly sailboat with its movable boom, means you can alter course and decelerate while curving around the destination star, so you don't have to do all your decelerating on the way in, in case the solar wind there is less than you expect.

High-falutin' stuff, but a lot cheaper to build and test than fusion ramjets.... :)
posted by zoogleplex at 4:58 PM on June 21, 2005

The silence from Cosmos 1 continues four and a half hours after it was launched from the submarine Borisoglebsk in the Barents Sea. "We don't know why this is" said Project Director Louis Friedman by phone from Moscow during a press conference at The Planetary Society this afternoon. "It is obviously very worrisome, but it is too early to draw any conclusions." (Source)

Too bad. I was really hoping this would succeed.
posted by purephase at 6:41 PM on June 21, 2005

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