Solar Sail Lost In Space?

Posted: December 13, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

It’s called NanoSail-D but it looks like a nano sail fail.

From Spaceflightnow.com:

NASA has not heard from the experimental NanoSail-D miniature solar sail in nearly a week, prompting officials to wonder if the craft actually deployed from a larger mother satellite despite initial indications it ejected as designed.

The agency announced Monday the NanoSail-D ejected from its mothership, the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT. The deployment was supposed to trigger a three-day timer before issuing an automatic command to unfurl a 100 square foot ultra-thin polymer sail from NanoSail-D, which is about the size of a loaf of bread.

All is not well.

NASA posted an update on the mission website late Friday saying "it is not clear" that the small spacecraft was deployed from FASTSAT.

"At the time of ejection, spacecraft telemetry data showed a positive ejection as reflected by confirmation of several of the planned on orbit ejection sequence events," the statement said. "The FASTSAT spacecraft ejection system data was also indicative of an ejection event."

FASTSAT was a part of a small satellite multi-pack that was launched on a Minotaur 4 rocket last month from the Kodiak Launch Complex.   However,

Engineers have been unable to contact the (NanoSail-D) spacecraft since its suspected release early Monday, according to Kim Newton, a spokesperson at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

NASA posted an update on the mission website late Friday saying "it is not clear" that the small spacecraft was deployed from FASTSAT.

This is the second nanosail effort.  The first never had a chance due to a launch failure.

Both NanoSail-D vehicles were assembled on a budget of $500,000, according to Dean Alhorn, the NanoSail-D project manager at Marshall.

Solar sails may have some potential as a method to mitigate space debris or to move dead satellites out of operational orbits.

Standing by for NanoSail-E.

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