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Business News/ Science / News/  NASA launches solar-powered spacecraft; All you need to know about this space mission
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NASA launches solar-powered spacecraft; All you need to know about this space mission

NASA, the US space agency, launched another space mission on Wednesday, April 24, from New Zealand at 3:30 am IST. This mission is unique as it will set sail through its Advanced Composite Solar Sail System which uses solar energy.

NASA launched a space mission on Wednesday, April 24, from New Zealand which will use solar energy to propel the spacecraft. Here's an artist’s concept of NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System spacecraft in orbit.Premium
NASA launched a space mission on Wednesday, April 24, from New Zealand which will use solar energy to propel the spacecraft. Here's an artist’s concept of NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System spacecraft in orbit.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) space mission witnessed its launch on Wednesday, April 24.

NASA's Advanced Composite Solar Sail System spacecraft aboard Rocket Lab's Electron rocket uses sunlight for propulsion and was launched from New Zealand at 3:30 am IST. This solar charged spacecraft will be installed 1,000 kilometres above Earth. After being deployed 25 minutes post lift-off, the spacecraft will measure about 80 square meters, as per NASA's report.

Also read: NASA’s Voyager 1 sends first message in 5 months after space scientists restore technical glitch; details here

Initially, the mission will last for a couple of months during the first phase after which the solar sail will set in, according to the US space agency.

In a social media post on X (formerly Twitter), the space agency stated, “NASA's Advanced Composite Solar Sail System is targeting an April 23 launch aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from New Zealand. The rocket will deploy the mission’s CubeSat above Earth to test the performance of the system."

Also read: NASA confirms ‘mysterious object’ that landed in Florida home; All you need to know

The oven-sized CubeSat is the heart of the spacecraft which will propel the spacecraft when solar particles are directed towards the solar sail. The mission team will conduct a series of pointing manoeuvres in the next few weeks after launch which will demonstrate orbit raising and lowering of the CubeSat using sunlight.

Also read: NASA Mars Mission: Space agency seeks cost-cutting solutions for Mars soil sample return amid budget trims

The solar powered spacecraft will be visible like the brightest star in the night sky like Sirius, if the orientation achieved is perfect.

NASA's report states, “After a busy initial flight phase, which will last about two months and includes subsystems checkout, the microwave oven-sized CubeSat will deploy its reflective solar sail." It further added, “The weeks-long test consists of a series of pointing maneuvers to demonstrate orbit raising and lowering, using only the pressure of sunlight acting on the sail."

Also read: NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter bids adieu with a final message: A peek into historic moments of this spacecraft

How this solar mission is important?

The mission is of great importance as its success will reduce reliance on heavy propulsion systems. Thus, solar sail technology will enable lower-cost missions of longer duration.

The mission’s lead systems engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Alan Rhodes remarked, “The Sun will continue burning for billions of years, so we have a limitless source of propulsion. Instead of launching massive fuel tanks for future missions, we can launch larger sails that use “fuel" already available." 

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Published: 24 Apr 2024, 08:09 AM IST
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