Cosmos 1 Solar Sail Fails

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Cosmos 1 Solar Sail Fails

The world’s first solar sail spacecraft named Cosmos 1 crashed back to Earth when its booster rocket failed less than two minutes after Tuesday’s takeoff, Russian space officials said. The Volna booster rocket failed 83 seconds after its launch from a Russian nuclear submarine in the northern Barents Sea, the Russian space agency said.

The Cosmos 1 vehicle, a joint U.S.-Russian project, was intended to show that a solar sail can make a controlled flight. Solar sails are designed to be propelled by pressure from sunlight. While not quite Star Trek warp speeds, solar sails are seen as a
potential means for achieving interstellar flight, allowing spacecraft to gradually build up great velocity and cover large distances.

What I'd like to know is why they used a nuclear submarine to launch this spacecraft instead of a land-based launch pad? Was it for safety reasons that they launched at sea? How ironic that a submarine which harnesses the power of the sun (nuclear fusion) was launching a spacecraft that directly harnesses the power of sunlight.

My guess as to why a submarine space launch was that Russia has to do something with all those nuclear missiles just wasting away in their submarines. I'm sure one of our nuclear treaties calls for decommissioning of some sub-based nuclear missiles. Probably a lot cheaper to remove a nuclear warhead from a missile, slap on a U.S. co-sponsored science project (namely Cosmos 1) and launch that into space rather than decommission and remove nuclear missiles in the subs. Just a theory. I have no idea if the rocket used was indeed a former nuclear missile, but seems to make the most sense. Probably a heck of a lot cheaper to launch from the ocean as well.

Well, here's to the future Cosmos 2 - may you have better luck.

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