A privately-developed solar sail is now scheduled for launch in March of next year, The Planetary Society announced Tuesday. The Cosmos 1 solar sail will be launched by a Russian sub-based Volna booster on March 1, 2005, at the beginning of a launch window that extends to April 7. Cosmos 1 aims to be the first orbital, controlled flight test of a solar sail, using only solar photons to propel the spacecraft. The venture has been run by The Planetary Society with funding provided by a private company, Cosmos Studios; most of the work has been done by the Russian company NPO Lavochkin. The project was announced in early 2001 and a failed suborbital test flight took place in July 2001. Tuesday's announcement coincided with the 70th anniversary of the birth of Carl Sagan, a cofounder of The Planetary Society.
When I think of solar sails, I think of the wonderful episode of Deep Space Nine where Sisko goes on a solar sail trip with his son, Explorers.