As part of a $4 million dollar joint effort between The Planetary Society of Pasadena, California, and Cosmos Studios of Ithaca, New York, a solar-sailing project called “Cosmos 1” was launched from the submarine Borisoglebsk of the Russian Northern Fleet in the Barents Sea on June 21, 2005.
Just 83 seconds into the mission, however, the rocket boosters never separated from the craft and the airborne vessel went down somewhere near Novaya Zemlya. Team crewmembers were initially unsure of its flight status and were holding onto false hope that Cosmos 1 was put into orbit as originally planned.
“We have no regrets over what happened,” said Bruce Murray, cofounder of The Planetary Society. “We’ve learned a lot and think we’ve shown what can be possible and what might be able to be done.”
Solar sails are designed to be propelled by pressure from sunlight, much like a spinning Crookes radiometer device when exposed to the Sun. This would allow for increased orbit energy.
Light particles, known as photons, reflect off the spacecraft’s giant mirror-like sails, pushing the craft forward. Because a solar sail carries no fuel, and in principle can keep accelerating over almost unlimited distances, it is the only technology known today that could one day travel to the stars.
Named as one of the most innovative ideas of 2005 by The New York Times Magazine, the possibility of launching another spacecraft in the near future is still being explored.