Blasting Off Today: A Satellite That Sails on Sunbeams
J Thoendell stashed this in Space
THE ATLAS V booster set to launch from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday will carry some wild stuff to space.
Nestled in the nosecone will be the X-37B, an uncrewed reusable orbital vehicle that flies classified missions for the Department of Defense. This time, the X-37B will be sporting a Hall thruster, a propulsion system that uses electrically-accelerated noble gas instead of burning rocket fuel. Or, to put it another way: It’s a secret spaceplane with an ion drive!
And tucked in behind that, the Atlas will have a package of CubeSats—small, flexible-mission satellites designed for customization with experiments and other space-bound payloads. The packages this time (PDF warning) include a plasma propulsion system, another ion drive, some communications equipment … and an idea from science fiction’s golden age that could reinvent space travel: the solar sail.
Stashed in: Space!