The Planetary Society solar sail team is working to try again to fly the world’s first solar sail spacecraft. With a tested spacecraft design, almost all flight components available, and at least two attractive launch vehicle possibilities, we are well positioned to reach our goal.
We’ve made considerable progress: Our Lavochkin/Space Research Institute team in Russia has identified two promising and affordable launch vehicles candidates for our spacecraft.
The Soyuz rocket with a Fregat upper stage successfully launched the European Space Agency’s Mars Express and Venus Express, among other missions. Soyuz is the reliable workhorse of Russian rockets and, with the Space Shuttle grounded, it is the only vehicle now taking astronauts to the International Space Station. It would carry our solar sail as secondary payload, piggybacking on a commercial launch.
The other launch vehicle possibility is the Kosmos-3M which recently launched several independent payloads from different countries. It, too, is very reliable, and although there were plans to shut down production, that plan has been reversed, and the rocket is now being built for small commercial and scientific launches.
With these new opportunities opening up, our members are backing a reflight, responding strongly by giving us the funds to begin again. We also have a small amount of insurance reimbursement in Russia that can be applied to part of the spacecraft re-build. This, with our members’ donations, allows us to keep our team together and restart the spacecraft development process.
But we will need much more to reach orbit. The total funding required for our project is $4 million, and we will need a major corporate or individual sponsor.
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If you love solar sails and the idea of people getting somewhere with this tech, give, folks, give.