Evolution of Solar Sails for Space Travel (Photos)

Japanese Spacecraft Deploys Solar Sail


A camera captures the second stage of solar sail deployment on the Japanese Ikaros mission. Four thin tethers that mechanically connect the solar sail membrane with the main body can be seen extending downward on both left and right sides of the image, while a harness that provides the electrical connection extends from the center to the lower left.

Japan's Ikaros Solar Sail in Space


The world's first solar sail to fly in deep space, Japan's Ikaros, is seen in this self-portrait view taken on June 14, 2010, after sail deployment.

Solar Sail Demonstration

L’Garde Inc.

Led by L’Garde Inc., of Tustin, California, this Solar Sail demonstration will enable propellantless in-space navigation for missions such as advanced geostorm warning, economic orbital debris removal, and deep space exploration.

NASA to Deploy Solar Sail This Summer


The Huntsville-based NanoSail-D team stands with the fully deployed sail at ManTech SRS technologies on April 16, 2008, after the successful deployment test.

Japan Launches New Venus Probe and Solar Sail


Japan's Venus Climate Orbiter Akatsuki and the Ikaros solar sail launch into space atop an unmanned H-2A rocket on May 20 (U.S. Eastern Time) from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. It was early morning Friday, May 21 at the Japanese launch site.

Japanese Rocket Prepared to Launch Venus Probe and Solar Sail


The H-2A rocket payload fairing containing Akatsuki and Ikaros was transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building over the weekend.

Planetary Society Resurrects Plan to Launch Solar Sail

The Planetary Society

An artist's concept of the LightSail-1 spacecraft, which scientists hope will prove that sunlight can power a ship through space.

Solar Sail Flotilla Could Divert Possibly Dangerous Asteroid

Olivier Boisard

An illustration of how solar sails might help deflect the asteroid Apophis.

Laser-Powered Solar Sails

Michael Carrol/Planetary Society

Space-based lasers could allow for interstellar missions by focusing beams on immense lightweight solar sails, allowing a spacecraft to reach enormous speeds.

Clean-up Solution: Solar Sail

Space Junk 3D, LLC

Clean-up solution: solar sail, as seen in the movie "Space Junk 3D."

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Space.com is the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news, chronicling (and celebrating) humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier. Originally founded in 1999, Space.com is, and always has been, the passion of writers and editors who are space fans and also trained journalists. Our current news team consists of Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik; Editor Hanneke Weitering, Senior Space Writer Mike Wall; Senior Writer Meghan Bartels; Senior Writer Chelsea Gohd, Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova and Staff Writer Alexander Cox, focusing on e-commerce. Senior Producer Steve Spaleta oversees our space videos, with Diana Whitcroft as our Social Media Editor.