Evolution of Solar Sails for Space Travel (Photos)

Japan's Solar Sail to Jupiter


This graphic by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency depicts a potential solar sail mission to Jupiter propelled only by the sun's light.

Electric Sail Prototype to Ride the Solar Wind

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An artist concept of an electric solar sail. The center package contains the solar panels powering an electron gun that keeps the many tethers charged.

Submarine Launch of Solar Sail

An artist's illustration of the submarine-based rocket launch that aimed to loft a small solar sail into orbit for the Planetary Society.

Rocket Loaded With Solar Sail and Satellites Blasts Off From Alaska

Spaceflight Now

A shot of a Minotaur 4 rocket carrying seven satellites - including a NASA solar sail - blasting off on Nov. 19, 2010, from a site in Alaska.

Sunshine Life for Me (Sail Away)


NASA engineers are testing solar sails, a unique propulsion technology which rely on sunlight to propel vehicles through space. The sail captures solar particles, called photons. This image is of a four-quadrant solar sail system, measuring 66 feet on each side, being tested in the world's largest vacuum chamber at NASA's Glenn Research Center at Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio.

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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.