JAXA unviels the Solar Sailing IKAROS spacecraft

The Japanese Space Agency has unveiled a prototype of what it says is the world’s first solar powered sail spacecraft.

It will be launched together with the country’s first Venus orbiter on May 18. There is also a campaign you can be a part of in this project. Look below for information on how to get your name and a message into space.

How it works:
IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) is a solar sail which gathers sunlight as propulsion by means of a large sail. This spacecraft will be launched in 2010 together with the Venus Climate Orbiter, “AKATSUKI”(PLANET-C), using the H-IIA launch vehicle. This will be the world’s first solar power sail craft employing both photon propulsion and thin film solar power generation during its interplanetary cruise.

IKAROS’s membrane is square, with a diagonal distance of 20m. The destination of the IKAROS is not specific but will be flown toward Venus.

Future Projects:
TPS is developing a spacecraft which is called “LightSail-1” that will sail around the earth revolving in orbit by the end of 2010. TPS, is one of the biggest organizations in the world promoting space exploration projects, outreach activities, and public information.

LightSail-1 is an ultra-light spacecraft with a mass of less than 5 kilograms. With a sail area of approximately 32 square meters, its goal is to fly in Earth orbit to demonstrate control and attitude in orbit and the ability to increase velocity utilizing sunlight pressure.

You can get your name and a message in space!
The collaborative message campaign held for JAXA’s “IKAROS” satellites and The Planetary Society’s “LightSail-1” mission has been extended until March 22, (Monday and a holiday in Japan for Vernal Equinox Day.)

The registered names and messages will be recorded either on an aluminum plate or DVD to be loaded onto the IKAROS spacecraft and travel through space toward orbit with Venus. Those who have not registered, don’t miss this opportunity!

Click here for more information and to register.