Japan’s Ikaros Spacecraft Unfurls Thin-film Solar Sail

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The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said June 11 that its Ikaros satellite had successfully completed deployment of an experimental solar sail and confirmed that it was generating power through its thin-film solar cells. The sail, made from a polymide resin, is thinner than a human hair and measures 20 meters from corner to corner.

The satellite was launched along with the Venus-bound Akatsuki probe May 21 aboard an H-2A rocket from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center.

Ikaros began to unfurl its solar sail June 3 and completed the deployment sequence June 10, according to a JAXA statement. The satellite is 770 kilometers from Earth.

“We will measure and observe the power generation status of the thin film solar cells, accelerate the satellite by photon pressure, and verify the orbit control through acceleration,” JAXA said in a statement. “Through these activities, we will ultimately aim at acquiring navigation technology through the solar sail.”