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JAXA, NASA test solar sail technology
Posted: Tue, Aug 10, 2004, 7:48 PM ET (2348 GMT)
In a pair of recent, independent tests, Japanese and American teams have successfully tested systems that could be used to deploy giant solar sails. On Monday the Japanese space agency JAXA launched a sounding rocket carrying a solar sail demonstration payload. During the suborbital flight the payload successfully deployed two different prototype solar sails, each about 10 meters across. One sail was clover-shaped with four petals, while the other was fan-shaped. JAXA billed the flight as the first successful in-space test of a "large" sail, although Russia tested similar technologies in space in the 1990s using Progress spacecraft on missions to the Mir space station. In the US, a project supported by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center successfully tested on the ground the deployment of two different solar sails, each 10 meters long, according to a space agency press release issued Monday. One sail, by L'Garde Inc., was deployed last month in a vacuum chamber operated by the NASA Glenn Research Center. The other sail, by Able Engineering, was tested in May at NASA Langley.
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