Japan is getting more active in the solar energy field in recent months, and now, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has revealed a plan under which solar photons will be used to propel satellites in outer space [JP, PDF]. The aim is to make satellites in general more energy-efficient.
The JAXA says their satellite would be the first object in outer space that’s propelled by particles of light. The particles accelerate the satellite and can make it change its direction, too. The solar photons will push against the satellite’s polymer sail, which is just 0.0075mm thick and will be partly covered with amorphous silicon solar cells. The sail itself is 20m in diameter.
The new technology will provide more than 50% of the power needed overall. And the JAXA is fast: It plans to launch the satellite as early as the next fiscal year and test it for six months in outer space.