We first blogged about Ikaros, a solar powered “space yacht” developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), in September last year. The idea was to use solar photons to propel satellites in outer space to boost energy-efficiency. That yacht was eventually launched on May 21, and now we have the first pictures of Ikaros moving through outer space.
The spacecraft had its sail stored inside when it was launched before unfurling the sail when it reached outer space. It sent the pictures you can see above and below to Earth using a tiny camera (6cm in height and diameter) that’s separated from the craft.
The polymer sail, which is the first of its kind, is just 0.0075mm thick and is partly covered with amorphous silicon solar cells (the cells provide more than 50% of the power needed overall). The JAXA expects Ikaros to travel through outer space for about six months.