Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Japan in Space
A couple of new things in space.
First, the Japanese Ikaros solar sail launch last month has unfurled. The photocells have generated power. Solar sails have been around in SF forever and it will be interesting, finally, to see if they work.
One wrinkle in the Ikaros project is they've embedded photocells in the solar sail. Such sails work by transferring momentum from photons to the sail generating thrust. However, you don't get something for nothing and I wonder if the transformation of photon energy to electrical energy will rob the sail of its thrust.
The other interesting thing is the Hayabusa has returned its cargo from the asteroid Itokawa. It's not clear yet whether or not the probe has fragments. There were some malfunctions during the mission. But we have high hopes. See here also.