Space Yacht Out of this World & Planet Star on the Ocean Waves
A Japanese rocket, which blasted off late last month carrying a Venus probe, was equipped with a kite-shaped “space yacht” designed to float through the cosmos using only the power of the sun. Meanwhile, the world’s largest solar powered ship, the PlanetStar, which made its first public appearance at the Hamburg port festival in Germany last month, is designed to sail around the world using sunlight alone.
By Louis Makiello in Eoch Times (23 May 2010):
The world’s largest solar powered ship made its first public appearance at the Hamburg port festival in Germany May 7–9.
The catamaran, christened PlanetSolar, is almost 102 feet (31 meters) in length and designed to sail around the world using sunlight alone. It was a star attraction at the festival.
PlanetSolar was built in Kiel, Germany, and weighs about 94 tons (85 tonnes). Its top speed is 14 knots (about 16 miles per hour), and it has a respectable cruising speed of 7.5 knots.
The ship is covered with about 5,700 square feet (536 square meters) of photovoltaic solar panels. Using energy stored in batteries, the ship can sail at cruising speed for three days without sun.
PlanetSolar will depart from the South of France in April 2011 and will stop at New York, San Francisco, Darwin in Australia, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi before returning to France 160 days later.
A crew of three or four will man PlanetSolar on its ocean crossings, but the boat will have up to 40 people onboard during the promotional trips planned for each stopover. The crew includes Frenchman Gérard d’Aboville, who is famous for rowing alone across the Atlantic and the Pacific.
The 31,000-mile (50,000 km) route will take PlanetSolar across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific and Indian oceans, over the Red Sea, and through the Suez Canal. Organizers are considering changing the last stage of the voyage as they fear Somali pirates might hijack the ship. Instead of going through the Red Sea, the ship could go around Africa, past the Cape of Good Hope. This would take it far from the equator and its vital sunlight.
The project is the idea of Swiss paramedic, pilot, and engineer Raphaël Domjan, who will be captain. He has obtained the backing of various companies, institutions, and personalities. They include a Swiss watch company, a solar power company, the Swiss government, the great-grandson of writer Jules Vernes, sailing record-holder Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, and famous diver Albert Falco.
“During our round-the-world tour, we will have to manage whatever energy nature gives us,“ said Raphaël Domjan in a press release. “We will have to constantly optimize our route and speed in line with the available sunshine and the medium-range weather forecast. No one has ever undertaken such a task.“
Unless it capsizes, sinks, runs aground, turns back, or breaks down, PlanetSolar will set several world records. This will be the first ever round-the-world voyage, the first Indian Ocean crossing, and the first Red Sea crossing by a solar powered boat.
Despite certain limitations (night lasts six month in the Arctic Ocean), solar powered ships can cruise indefinitely. Until now, only sailing boats and nuclear powered vessels have enjoyed such limitless freedom.
By Miwa Suzuki for AFP (20 May 2010):
A Japanese rocket blasted off late last month carrying a Venus probe and a kite-shaped “space yacht” designed to float through the cosmos using only the power of the sun.
The launch vehicle, the H-IIA rocket, took off from the Tanegashima space centre in southern Japan on schedule at 6:58 am (Thursday 2158 GMT), three days after its original launch was postponed by bad weather.
Live footage on the website of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) showed the rocket disappear into the sky.
“The rocket is flying normally,” JAXA said 20 minutes after blast-off.
It carried with it the experimental “Ikaros” — an acronym for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun — designed to be propelled by the pressure of sunlight particles.
Similar to an ocean yacht pushed by wind, the device has a square, ultra-thin and flexible sail, measuring 14 by 14 metres (46 by 46 feet), that will be driven through space as it is pelted by solar particles.
The sail, only a fraction of the thickness of a human hair, is also partly coated with thin-film solar cells to generate electricity.
The name of the spacecraft alludes to Icarus, the figure from Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun. The space yacht, however, is headed in the direction of Venus.
Ikaros, which cost 1.5 billion yen (16 million dollars) to develop, will be the first use of the propellant-free technology in deep space, although it has been tested in orbit around the Earth before.
“This idea of a solar sail was born some 100 years ago, as we often find it in science fiction novels, but it has not been realised to date,” JAXA says on its website.
“If we can verify this navigation technology through the Ikaros, it will mark the first spectacular achievement of its kind in the world.”
The rocket’s payload also includes the Planet-C Venus Climate Orbiter, a box-shaped golden satellite, fitted with two paddle-shaped solar panels, that is set to arrive at Venus in about six months.
Venus is similar in size and age to Earth but has a far more hostile climate, with temperatures around 460 degrees Celsius (860 degrees Fahrenheit) and large amounts of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas on Earth.
Scientists believe a probe of the climate of Venus will help them deepen their understanding of the formation of the Earth’s environment and its future.
The probe — nicknamed Akatsuki, which means “Dawn” in Japanese — will work closely with the European Space Agency’s Venus Express.
Fitted with five cameras, its mission is to peer through the planet’s thick layer of sulphuric acid clouds to monitor the meteorology of Venus, search for possible lightning, and scan its crust for active volcanoes.
It will observe the planet in an elliptical orbit, from a distance of between 300 and 80,000 kilometres (200 to 50,000 miles).
The H-IIA rocket, developed by JAXA and made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is Japan’s primary space launch vehicle. It will also carry four other small satellites, developed by Japanese universities and other institutions.