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Solar Sail Powered Space Drone Successful

The Japanese space agency JAXA announced yesterday that their IKAROS drone is successfully propelling itself through space in the wind of its massive solar sail, giving hope to all those who dream of spaceflight without carrying all that heavy fuel around with you.

The IKAROS was launched about two months ago, and its sail was unfurled in early June.

The sail itself is 3,000 feet square, and tows a 700 pound probe.  Apparently, each photon to hit the scale “exerts 0.0002 pounds of pressure” on it.  There’s also this official announcement from JAXA which is full of numbers and charts that, uh, we can’t really make heads or tails of.  We’re really curious as to how much actual velocity all those photons are producing.

IKAROS is on its way to Venus, and after that will begin a three-year trip to check out the far side of the Sun, where we fervently hope it doesn’t live up to its namesake.

Check out Inhabitat‘s gallery of IKAROS pictures here.

(via /.)

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Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.