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NASA Space Science

NASA Set To Launch Solar NanoSail Into Space 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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NASA Set To Launch Solar NanoSail Into Space

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  • by jfanning ( 35979 ) on Friday August 20, 2010 @05:32AM (#33311696) Homepage

    This seems to be almost exactly the same as the Planetary Society's LightSail project, []

    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:Screw the solar (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday August 20, 2010 @06:27AM (#33311862) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • japanese icarus? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ingilizdili ( 1882996 ) on Friday August 20, 2010 @06:50AM (#33311936) Homepage
    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 []
  • Re:"D" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EnsilZah ( 575600 ) <EnsilZah AT Gmail DOT com> on Friday August 20, 2010 @07:02AM (#33311970)

    Maybe they just prefer Picard over Kirk.

  • Re:Screw the solar (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Friday August 20, 2010 @07:31AM (#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.

  • by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Friday August 20, 2010 @08:01AM (#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.

  • by smallfries ( 601545 ) on Friday August 20, 2010 @08:17AM (#33312224) Homepage

    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.

  • Spinning much? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 20, 2010 @12:14PM (#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" -

    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 -

    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. -

    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.

    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".

I owe the public nothing. -- J.P. Morgan