Molniya rocket crash will not cancel solar sail launch -- Defense Ministry

MOSCOW, June 21 (RIA Novosti) - The failure of a Molniya carrier rocket launched from Russia's Plisetsk Space Center on Tuesday to orbit a military satellite will not delay the launch from a Russian submarine of a unique spacecraft, Kosmos-1, which is equipped with a "solar sail".

"The launch of the Volna converted ballistic missile is scheduled for 23:46 (Moscow time) June 21, and will be carried out from a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea," a Russian Defense Ministry representative told RIA Novosti.

Kosmos-1 is the world's first attempt to implement the idea of a "solar sail," which will be used to propel the spacecraft along "solar winds," or solar radiation.

If it is put into orbit successfully, the spacecraft, which weighs 112 kilograms, will unfold the solar sail around itself. The sail consists of eight "petals", whose total area of 650 square meters is approximately the size of one and a half basketball courts.

Designed to be in orbit for a month, Kosmos-1 will corroborate Russian and U.S. scientists' calculations and test the hypothesis of flying by means of the solar sail that was first put forward in the 17th century by German astronomer Johann Kepler.

The Russian ballistic missile will place the Mylar sail into an 825-kilometer quasi-polar orbit. Although it formally belongs to the U.S. Planetary Society company, whose founders included the renowned astronomer Carl Sagan, the sail was designed and produced by the Babakin design bureau at the Lavochkin Institute, which is based in the Moscow suburb of Khimki.

An attempt to launch a similar spacecraft from a submarine in the Barents Sea in summer 2001 ended in failure, as was the case with a previous attempt in the spring of the same year.

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