Japan Deploys First Solar Sail in Space

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Could it usher in a new era of space propulsion?

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed that the solar sail, IKAROS, successfully deployed today.   JAXA said in a statement that the solar sail is already generating power through its micro-thin-film solar cells. The 196 square meter membrane will demonstrate the use of sunlight to propel through space.

If it operates as expected, it will be the first spacecraft to move through the solar system without using rocket fuel. Next stop for Ikaros is Venus.

IKAROS first launched into space 5 million miles from Earth from the Tanegashima Space Center on May 21st.