Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A New Hope: Nanosail-D May Launch Again

SpaceToys.com Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas

(Hat Tip: Space Transport News, Image Credit: John Ballentine)

While many will acknowledge SpaceX's third launch failure as a setback for the private space sector (aka NewSpace), many may not realize that it was also a setback for the "deep space" community as one of the passengers on board was the Nanosail-D satellite (a solar sail prototype).

Despite the tragic loss, it looks as though another solar sail is available for launch--provided that they can secure a rocket to send them beyond the sky.

(Centauri Dreams) Greg’s recent phone call may not have been as dramatic as that scene in Contact, but he was able to tell me that although NanoSail-D did perish in the SpaceX Falcon explosion, there is a second sail. Marshall Space Flight Center built two. So now we’re in the energizing position of having a second chance at a sail deployment in space, and it could be done soon via the next Falcon launch, if SpaceX will cooperate in the enterprise.

Hopefully SpaceX will be kind enough to consider adding NanoSail's "surviving twin" on the next rocket, as it will help scientists and engineers study how a solar sail reacts "in the wild" (not to mention give SpaceX something to boast about to the ever skeptical media).

Even though the solar sail have the potential of helping humanity visit other star systems, they could also shorten the amount of time it would take to reach lunar moons around the gas giants (not to mention the Kuiper Belt as well).

This would enable future colonies on Callisto, Ganymede, Titan and Neptune's Triton to flourish, as solar sails could be used to speedily transport goods between these distant worlds.

Update: Added "hat tip."

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