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A 'space yacht' propelled only by sunlight particles bouncing off its kite-shaped sails is to launch next month.
A rocket carrying the Japanese craft will blast off from Tanegashima Space Center on May 18.
Once in space the short cylindrical pod will separate from the rocket spinning up to 20 times a minute. This will help it to unfold its flexible 46ft sail, which is thinner than a human hair.
The Ikaros, a Japanese spacecraft, is set to be launched on May 18.
Known as a "space yacht," the kite-shaped sails on Ikaros is powered by solar particles.
The Ikaros could lead the future of spacecraft that rely on sunlight instead of fuel.
In coming years, JAXA may launch other bold projects.
An expert panel to the government has proposed Japan send a wheeled robot to the moon in five years and build the world's first lunar base by 2020, a Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy official said Tuesday.
Under the plan, the robot's tasks would include setting up an observation device, gathering geological samples and sending data back to Earth. The robot would also set up solar panels to generate energy, the official said.
The expert panel initially considered sending a two-legged humanoid but judged a "rover-type" robot more practical. "It is still difficult for a biped robot to walk on a bumpy surface, even on Earth," the official said.
The team also envisions building the world's first station on the moon by about 2020, which would be staffed by advanced wheeled robots, he said.
The group estimates the unmanned mission would cost Japan 200 billion yen (two billion dollars) over the next 10 years.
The 20-member team -- made up of experts from JAXA as well as business and academia -- advises Transport Minister Seiji Maehara.
It plans to submit a report to Maehara, the minister in charge of space exploration, by late June, which would be discussed at the Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy, chaired by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
NASA has successfully tested deployment technologies on small scale sails in vacuum chambers.
No solar sails have been successfully used in space as primary propulsion systems, but research in the area is continuing. It is noteworthy that both the Mariner 10 mission, which flew by the planets Mercury and Venus, and the MESSENGER mission to Mercury demonstrated use of solar pressure as a method of attitude control, in order to conserve attitude-control propellant.
On February 4, 1993, Znamya 2, a 20-meter wide aluminized-mylar reflector, was successfully tested from the Russian Mir space station. Although the deployment test was successful, the experiment only demonstrated the deployment, not propulsion. A second test, Znamaya 2.5, failed to deploy properly.
On August 9, 2004, the Japanese ISAS successfully deployed two prototype solar sails from a sounding rocket. A clover type sail was deployed at 122 km altitude and a fan type sail was deployed at 169 km altitude. Both sails used 7.5 micrometer thick film. The experiment was purely a test of the deployment mechanisms, not of propulsion.
Japan says its kite-shaped 'space yacht', designed to float through space using only the power of the sun, has successfully set sail.
A Japanese rocket last month launched the experimental 'Ikaros' - Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun - designed to be propelled by the pressure of sunlight particles.
The technology could eventually enable space travel without fuel, as long as there is sunlight.