Solar sail launch fails

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The Independent Online

A Russian attempt to launch a solar sail vehicle designed to be propelled by pressure from sunlight collapsed because the booster rocket suffered engine failure soon after it blasted into space, the Russian space agency said today.

A Russian attempt to launch a solar sail vehicle designed to be propelled by pressure from sunlight collapsed because the booster rocket suffered engine failure soon after it blasted into space, the Russian space agency said today.

The launch late yesterday was part of a joint Russian-U.S project attempting the first controlled flight of a solar sail.

Solar sails are envisioned as a potential means for achieving interstellar flight in the future, allowing such spacecraft to gradually build up great velocity and cover large distances.

The booster failed 83 seconds after its launch from a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea, the space agency said.

Its spokesman, Vyacheslav Davidenko, said that "the booster's failure means that the solar sail vehicle was lost."

The Russian Defence Ministry has launched a search for debris from the booster and the US$4 million (§3.3 million) Cosmos 1.

US scientists had said earlier that they might have detected signals from the spacecraft.

The signals were picked up late yesterday after an all-day search for the spacecraft, which had suddenly stopped communicating after its launch, they said.

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