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Posts Tagged ‘exploration’

Canada Will Command Space in 2013! No, its not William Shatner

September 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Although Captain Kirk is Canadian as well.  

 (Update: I just realized that some of my non-Canadian readers may not get that William Shatner is spoofing a Molson Canadian beer commercial. Here it is so you don’t feel lost :) 

But congratulations are in order for Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who was recently awarded the command of the International Space Station for a period in 2013.  

Chris Hadfield

Even though Canada has made some big contributions to the exploration of space , to be awarded command of the ISS is quite a big deal.  

So way to go Chris, this is quite an accomplishment.  

That moustache is pretty sweet too.  

Can You Fly Using Only Light?

July 15, 2010 Leave a comment

You bet you can!

The Japanese space agency (JAXA) recently launched a test vehicle for solar sail technology called IKAROS. (Read about it here in a previous post)

IKAROS. Photo: JAXA

The solar sail was unfurled and, a few days ago, JAXA confirmed that IKAROS was indeed accelerating!

Due to the pressure light from the sun striking the solar sail, IKAROS is accelerating at 0.00000356 meters per second per second.

For comparison, if you were to drop a cup in the kitchen, it will accelerate toward the floor at 9.8 meters per second per second. Pretty fast. Thats about 2,750,000 times faster than IKAROS is accelerating now.

So, how could IKAROS possibly be useful? Well take into account that the cup only accelerates toward the floor for about a tenth of a second or so before it shatters in a brilliant display.

IKAROS, on the other hand, is constantly accelerating. And it will continue to accelerate as there is nothing in space to stop it.

So if IKAROS were to accelerate at the same rate for the next year, it will end up moving at a speed of over 100 meters per second and would have travelled over 1,770,000 km.

All without using a drop of fuel!

And IKAROS is just a test vehicle. Further iterations of the design will involve bigger and more efficient sails, resulting in bigger accelerations.

I firmly believe that the first generation of deep space explorers will be using solar sail technology to get where they are going.

Exciting stuff people!

Deep Space Probe IKAROS: Update

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I recently wrote about the new Japanese space probe IKAROS. It is the first probe designed to test the idea of using solar sails to travel the universe.

A couple new photos were just released showing IKAROS with its sail unfurling, confirming the first stage of its mission.

IKAROS with sails in the process of unfolding. Photo: JAXA

IKAROS with solar sail completely unfurled. Photo: JAXA

Now its just a matter of getting it up to speed. I’m really interested in this one folks, and I’ll keep you up to date.

IKAROS Unfurls Sails on Deep Space Exploration

June 11, 2010 1 comment

The Japanese make all the coolest gadgets.

IKAROS with Solar Sail Unfurled. Photo: JAXA

Today, the Japanese spacecraft IKAROS opened its solar sail in an attempt to prove that solar wind can be used for propulsion for deep-space flight.

IKAROS stands for ‘Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun’. The acronym is a bit of  a stretch, trying to relate the spacecraft to the Greek mythological character, Icarus.

Young Icarus attempted to flee the island of Crete by flying with wings made of wax. Perhaps not the greatest choice in name for the spacecraft, as poor Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting his wings and he fell to his death…

The Lament For Icarus

But Greek Icarus did not have the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency behind him, so hopefully IKAROS can do better. Using the momentum of charged particles to accelerate a spacecraft has long been proposed as an effective means of propelling a spacecraft in deep space at high speeds, without having to carry large amounts of fuel. The idea is based on the idea that even if the solar wind pressure produces a very small amount of acceleration, the acceleration is constant, and the spacecraft should be able to reach speeds of 50 km/s or more.

IKAROS has a sail made of polymide and is 0.0075 mm thick. It has a surface area of roughly 200 metres squared and is AWESOME.

Call me an old softy, but there is something poetic in exploring space using huge sails just like the explorers of old like Magellan, who sailed the oceans.

Magellan's Ship 'Victoria'

They were heading into the unknown with only nature to power them, and it seems we are about to do the same.