Rocket Lab's Electron will launch NASA's new composite solar sail into space, where it will undergo several weeks of testing. The South Korean payload NEONSAT-1 was also launched in New Zealand on a rideshare mission called

1/2 | Rocket Lab's Electron launches NASA's new composite solar sail into space, where it will undergo weeks of testing. The Korean payload NEONSAT-1 was also aboard the New Zealand launch on a rideshare mission called “Beginning of the Swarm.” Photo courtesy of Rocket Lab

April 23 (UPI) — Rocket Lab will launch NASA's new composite solar sail into space for a multi-week test of using sunlight to propel it through the solar system.

Solar sail technology will be on board Rocket Lab's Electron with South Korean payload NEONSAT-1 on a rideshare mission called “Beginning of the Swarm” from Pad B of New Zealand's Launch Complex 1 at 10:32 a.m. New Zealand time on Wednesday. was launched.

Rocket Lab's launch was delayed by about 17 minutes due to ground system issues, but it was the second launch just 16 minutes after liftoff. SpaceX launched 23 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit from Florida.

“Welcome to orbit, NEONSAT-1 and NASA's Advanced Composite Solar Sail System,” Rocket Lab writes. in post At X.

“The 47th Electron launch mission was a success.”

NEONSAT-1 is an Earth observation satellite developed by the Satellite Technology Research Center of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Approximately 50 minutes after liftoff, it was deployed 323 miles above Earth.

NASA's Advanced Composite Solar Sail System, or ACS3 for short, deployed 55 minutes later at an altitude of 620 miles. ACS3 orbits at a distance more than twice the altitude of the International Space Station.

“We have confirmed the deployment of an advanced composite solar sail system to low Earth orbit!” NASA wrote hours after launch. in post on X. “The next step is to power up and make contact with the ground.”

After an initial flight phase lasting about two months, ACS3, which is about the size of a microwave oven, will deploy an 860-square-foot reflective solar sail, the size of six parking lots.

NASA will test the sail and the composite boom that holds it in a series of maneuvers to adjust the spacecraft's trajectory and collect data for future missions that may use larger sails. It's planned.

Solar sails use the pressure of sunlight to move through space, eliminating the need for heavy propulsion systems. The sails are positioned toward or away from the sun so that photons bounce off the reflective sails and push the spacecraft.

“Flight data obtained during the demonstration will be used to design future large-scale solar sail systems for space weather, early warning satellites, asteroid and other small body reconnaissance missions, and missions to observe the polar regions of the Sun. ” said Rocket Lab. It's written in the mission description.

The lightweight, compact design of the composite boom is flexible and reinforced with carbon fiber, and could eventually be used to frame structures on the Moon or Mars, according to NASA.

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