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Countdown to the launch of solar sailed spacecraft

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Cosmos 1 has 8 triangular sails, each 15 meters (50 feet) in length, configured around the spacecraft's body at the center. The sails will be deployed by inflatable tubes once the spacecraft is in orbit. Credit: The Planetary Society, NPO Lavochkin (c)
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Cosmos 1 has 8 triangular sails, each 15 meters (50 feet) in length, configured around the spacecraft's body at the center. The sails will be deployed by inflatable tubes once the spacecraft is in orbit. Credit: The Planetary Society, NPO Lavochkin (c)
The Spacecraft was built in Russia by NPO Lavochkin under contract to The Planetary Society. Cosmos Studios is the project's sole sponsor. Credit: The Planetary Society, NPO Lavochkin (c)
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The Spacecraft was built in Russia by NPO Lavochkin under contract to The Planetary Society. Cosmos Studios is the project's sole sponsor. Credit: The Planetary Society, NPO Lavochkin (c)
Moscow, NPO Lavochkin, May 2005: A close-up of a folded sail installed on the spacecraft. Credit: The Planetary Society, NPO Lavochkin (c)
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Moscow, NPO Lavochkin, May 2005: A close-up of a folded sail installed on the spacecraft. Credit: The Planetary Society, NPO Lavochkin (c)
Moscow, NPO Lavochkin, May 2005: One of Cosmos 1's eight sails spread out before being folded. Credit: The Planetary Society, NPO Lavochkin (c)
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Moscow, NPO Lavochkin, May 2005: One of Cosmos 1's eight sails spread out before being folded. Credit: The Planetary Society, NPO Lavochkin (c)
The Cosmos 1 flight module before the installation of the sails. Note the cylinder-shaped electric motors halfway up the module and the "winches" on the top and bottom, which are powered by the motors and used to tilt the sails in flight. There are 8 "win
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The Cosmos 1 flight module before the installation of the sails. Note the cylinder-shaped electric motors halfway up the module and the "winches" on the top and bottom, which are powered by the motors and used to tilt the sails in flight. There are 8 "win
Cosmos 1 has 8 triangular sails, each 15 meters (50 feet) in length, configured around the spacecraft's body at the center. The sails will be deployed by inflatable tubes once the spacecraft is in orbit. Credit: The Planetary Society, NPO Lavochkin (c)
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Cosmos 1 has 8 triangular sails, each 15 meters (50 feet) in length, configured around the spacecraft's body at the center. The sails will be deployed by inflatable tubes once the spacecraft is in orbit. Credit: The Planetary Society, NPO Lavochkin (c)
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Cosmos 1, the first solar sail, will begin its epic voyage from beneath the Barents Sea where it will be launched on a Volna rocket (converted Intercontinental ballistic missiles of the type once aimed at the United States) from a Russian nuclear submarin
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Cosmos 1, the first solar sail, will begin its epic voyage from beneath the Barents Sea where it will be launched on a Volna rocket (converted Intercontinental ballistic missiles of the type once aimed at the United States) from a Russian nuclear submarin

June 19, 2005 If you feel like being part of an ambitious scientific adventure over the next few days, spend a few minutes at the Planetary Society web site watching the lead up to the launch on June 21 of the first solar sail spacecraft, Cosmos 1. Solar sails power a spacecraft by the pressure of light particles from the Sun –there is no engine. This technology enables the spacecraft to keep accelerating over almost unlimited distances, and is the only technology now in existence that might one day take us to the stars.

It’s not government funded but sponsored by Cosmos Studios, and supported by Members of The Planetary Society from all over the world. The spacecraft will be launched from a submerged Russian submarine in the Barents Sea and carried into orbit in a converted ICBM left over from the old Soviet arsenal.

The aim of the mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of Solar Sail flight. There’s a live blog counting down the happenings and preparation all over the world for this momentous event and it is indeed very exciting stuff.

The Planetary Society is the largest non-profit, non-governmental space advocacy group on Earth and we wish the organisation and its members the very best of luck in this grand endeavour.

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