A Japanese rocket blasted off early Friday carrying a Venus probe and a kite-shaped “space yacht” designed to float through the cosmos using only the power of the sun.
The launch vehicle, the H-IIA rocket, took off from the Tanegashima space centre in southern Japan on schedule at 6:58 am (Thursday 2158 GMT), three days after its original launch was postponed by bad weather.
Live footage on the website of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) showed the rocket disappear into the sky.
“The rocket is flying normally,” JAXA said 20 minutes after blast-off.
It carried with it the experimental “Ikaros” — an acronym for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun — designed to be propelled by the pressure of sunlight particles.
Similar to an ocean yacht pushed by wind, the device has a square, ultra-thin and flexible sail, measuring 14 by 14 metres (46 by 46 feet), that will be driven through space as it is pelted by solar particles.
The sail, only a fraction of the thickness of a human hair, is also partly coated with thin-film solar cells to generate electricity.
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