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New solar sail aims to not repeat recent history


Attempts to launch a solar sail into space haven't exactly been met with success in the past, but NASA now looks set to try to notch one up in the win column, with the agency reportedly on track for a launch of its own as soon as July 29th. As the name suggests, its new NanoSail-D is smaller than previous sails, with it consisting of four 3-meter wide sails made of a plastic film coated with aluminum. Also, like similar missions, this one is primarily a proof of concept one, which NASA hopes will demonstrate the feasibility of deploying sails in orbit, including the possibility of using them to bring satellites back down to Earth when they've outlived their usefulness to keep space a bit tidier. As NewScientist points out, however, NASA already has some of the odds stacked against it, with its launch craft, the Falcon 1, having failed on its two launch attempts so far.

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