The Planetary Society’s Cosmos 1: The First Solar Sail mission, sponsored by Cosmos Studios, is set to test in April with the prime mission scheduled to launch between October – December this year.

The deployment test flight will launch from a Russian submarine in the
Barents Sea and will be lifted into a thirty-minute sub-orbital flight from
a Russian Volna rocket, a converted ICBM. The main mission, with the goal
of first solar sail flight, will launch into Earth orbit later this year,
also from a Volna rocket.

Once in orbit, the solar sail spacecraft will be as bright as the full moon
(although only a point in the sky) and will be visible from places on Earth
with the naked eye. Images of the sail in flight will be sent to Earth
from two different cameras on-board the spacecraft.

The mission represents the first private mission of space exploration
technology and the first mission by a private space interest organization.
It will explore and develop technology that could open the door to future
flights throughout the solar system and beyond. The mission will be carried
out by a unique, privately funded Russian-American space venture.

“This could be a pivotal moment for space exploration, said Louis
Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society and Project Director
of Cosmos 1. “Solar Sailing is a grand adventure as well as an important
leap in technological innovation.”

Space sailing is done not with wind, but with reflected light pressure –
pushing on giant sails, changing the orbital energy and spacecraft velocity
continuously. The sunlight pressure is powerful enough to push spacecraft
between the planets from Mercury out to Jupiter. Beyond Jupiter, and out
to the stars, space sailing can be done using powerful lasers focused over
long distances in space.

“The lasers themselves will be powered by solar energy – keeping the spirit
of solar sailing alive to other stars,” added Friedman.

“The many special aspects of this first attempted solar sail flight –
Russian-American collaboration; use of weapons of war for launching
peaceful technologies for humankind’s future; attempting a very low cost,
privately funded space initiative in a one-year time schedule; realizing
one of Carl Sagan’s dreams; working with Ann Druyan, Sagan’s wife and
long-time collaborator, who, together with Joe Firmage, had the courage to
fund this project – make us extremely proud of what we have accomplished
before we’ve even launched,” said Friedman.

“We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are
ready at last to set sail for the stars,” wrote Sagan and Druyan in their
television series, Cosmos.

“This is a Kitty Hawk moment to us. We feel as if we’ve been given the
chance to outfit the Wright Brothers’ Bicycle Shop,” said Ann Druyan, CEO
of Cosmos Studios, Inc. “We at Cosmos Studios are honored to work with the
brilliant scientists and engineers of many countries brought together by
The Planetary Society for one great purpose. We are proud to be part of
this historic mission, which is a critical baby step to the stars. It’s
also emblematic of Cosmos Studios’ philosophy: to support good science,
clean high technology and bold exploration, and to engage the widest
possible audience in the romance of the adventure.”

The low cost of this mission is made possible due to the Russians ability
to “piggy-back” on a successful program in developing an inflatable
re-entry vehicle. Once injected into Earth’s orbit, the sail will be
deployed by inflatable tubes, pulling out the sail material and then
rigidizing the structure. The sail is constructed into eight “blades” or
“petals” – roughly triangular in shape. They can be turned (pitched) like
helicopter blades, and depending on how they are turned, the sunlight will
reflect in different directions. This is how the attitude of the
spacecraft is controlled and how the sail can “tack.”

Low cost is also made possible by use of the Volna rocket, manufactured by
the Makeev Rocket Bureau in Russia. The Babakin Space Center is the prime
contractor for the project – the company is a spin-off organization of NPO
Lavochkin, the largest manufacturer of robotic spacecraft in the world.

The April launch will be a sub-orbital flight test of the deployment of two
solar sail blades. An inflatable re-entry shield is planned to bring the
pictures of the deployment back to a landing and recovery site in
Kamchatka. The actual solar sail flight will commence from an 850 km
circular orbit, with a launch being planned in a window between October –
December of this year. The sail will be 600 square meters of aluminized
mylar, constructed into 8 blades.

Solar sailing enables space travel without fuel. Applications from space
weather satellites that can hold position against the force of gravity, to
interplanetary shuttles carrying cargo between the planets and the
asteroids and comets are all part of the solar sailing future. By diving
in close to the Sun, future solar sails will achieve enormous velocities
enabling rendezvous with any solar system object, or, as mentioned above, a
flight to the stars.

Cosmos 1 is staffed by a world team of Americans and Russians. The
Planetary Society website has a dedicated section to this mission, which
includes an animation of the mission, spacecraft details, updates and news
releases. It will allow the world public to follow and participate in this
mission. This site is open to the public and is located at

This will be the first space mission that will utilize a website to
continuously interface the sequence of the mission with the general public,
allowing continued and uninterrupted public participation. Additional
information will also be available at the Cosmos Studios website located at

The Planetary Society is headquartered in Pasadena, California, U.S.A. The
organization was co-founded by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman
in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system, and to continue the
search for extraterrestrial life. With 100,000 members in over 140
countries, the Society is the largest space interest group in the world.

Cosmos Studios creates science-based entertainment that seeks to thrill and
engage the broadest possible audience through the convergence of
television, cinema and the Internet. The company creates programming that
makes news, entertains, uplifts and inspires humankind’s quest for
knowledge, our understanding of cosmic evolution, and our place in its
great story. Cosmos Studios is based in Los Angeles, California and is
managed from Ithaca, New York.

# # # # # # # # #