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Sunjammer mission successfully deployed part of its huge solar sail in a test on Sept. 30, revealing the craft should be ready to function successfully following its January 2015 launch.
The giant Sunjammer solar sail, cleared a successful design test that required the deploying beam to stretch a quarter of the sail completely open. Because the Sept. 30 test took place on Earth, gravity and atmosphere made conditions more challenging than they would be in the vacuum of space, the sail's designers said.
"If this test succeeded under these stressing conditions, we certainly anticipate it will work exceedingly well in space," Nathan Barnes, President of lead contractor L'Garde Inc, said in a statement.
When Sunjammer launches in 2015, it will be the largest solar sail ever flown. Covering an area of almost 13,000 square feet (1,200 square meters), the full sail will span approximately a third the length of a football field. Despite its size, the enormous sail will be only about five millionths of a meter thick, keeping its weight down to 70 pounds (31 kilograms).
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