May 18, 2010

Japan Rocket Launch Delayed Due To Weather

Japanese officials said on Tuesday that they have postponed the launch of a rocket set to carry an experimental "space yacht" propelled by solar particles. Bad weather at the launch site was being blamed.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) decided on the delay six minutes before the scheduled launch of the H-IIA rocket, set for 6:44 a.m., as the weather at the Tenegashima space center worsened.

"There is a risk of thunderstorms," a JAXA official told AFP.

The rocket was set to launch with "space yacht" Ikaros, or Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun, which is propelled by the pressure of sunlight particles bouncing off its sail.

Jiji press and other local media reported that the launch would take place on Friday at the earliest.

Ikaros is a $16 million project and will be the first use of the technology in deep space.  Past experiments have been limited to unfolding its sail in orbits around the Earth.

According to JAXA, the flexible sails, which are thinner than a human hair, are also equipped with thin-film solar cells to generate electricity to create "a hybrid technology of electricity and pressure."

Its developers say that the technology could enable space travel without fuel as long as there is sunlight.

The name of the spacecraft alludes to Icarus, a Greek mythology character that flew too close to the sun and fell into the sea.

The same rocket was also set to launch Japan's first satellite bound for Venus, known as the Akatsuki.  The satellite will work closely with Venus Express, a satellite sent earlier by the European Space Agency.


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