Sat, May 22, 2010
Weather Improved For An Early Friday Launch
The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has launched a mission to
Venus that is carrying a probe to study the planet's atmosphere as
well as a spacecraft that will be powered only by a solar sail.
The vehicles launched from the Tanegashima space center in
southern Japan on schedule at 0658 local time (Thursday 2158 GMT).
A previous attempt had been scrubbed three days earlier due to bad
"It was an almost perfect launch," Teruaki Kawai, a space
business manager with the rocket's manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy
Industries, told a televised press conference from the island of
The international news service AFP reports that the rocket
carried a probe dubbed "Akatsuki", which means "Dawn" in Japanese.
It is a satellite designed to study the Venusian atmosphere. Also
on board is the "Ikaros" spacecraft which is designed to travel
interplanetary distances using a 46 by 46 foot solar sail no
thicker than a human hair. It is partially coated with solar cells
to generate electricity.
IKAROS Image Courtesy JAXA
On the JAXA website, the agency says "If we can verify this
navigation technology through the Ikaros, it will mark the first
spectacular achievement of its kind in the world." JAXA envisions
the solar sail as part of a hybrid ion drive that, when combined
with photon acceleration to realize fuel-effective and flexible
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