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NASA successfully launches NanoSail-D solar sail from microsatellite in space

Darren Murph

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Took 'em long enough, don'tcha think? After talking things up for years (and getting dangerously close to pulling the trigger in mid-2008) NASA has finally ejected a solar sail into space. But that's not the kicker -- it managed to eject NanoSail-D from a microsatellite, dubbed FASTSAT. We're told that this "is the first time NASA has mounted a P-POD on a microsatellite to eject a cubesat," and sure enough, things have gone swimmingly ever since the mission began on Friday. Aside from giving NASA the ability to test out the effectiveness of using a solar sail in orbit, this also proves that FASTSAT is a "cost-effective independent means of placing cubesat payloads into orbit safely" -- that's according to Mark Boudreaux, FASTSAT project manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Moreover, the NanoSail flight results could lead to new methods of de-orbiting space debris in the future, not to mention get more and more of 'em there to begin with at a lower overall cost and with far less hassle.

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