On Tuesday, the launch of a rocket carrying a Venus probe and an experimental “space yacht” propelled by solar particles was postponed by Japan due to adverse weather conditions at the Tanegashima space centre.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) made the decision to delay the launch just six minutes before the scheduled time of 6:44 am (2144 GMT on Monday) as the weather deteriorated, citing the risk of thunderstorms.
The rocket was intended to carry the “space yacht” Ikaros, which derives its propulsion from sunlight particles bouncing off its thin sail. The launch has been rescheduled for 6:58 am on Friday (2158 GMT on Thursday).
Ikaros, an acronym for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun, has incurred a cost of 1.5 billion yen (16 million dollars) for its development. This technology, employing a flexible sail thinner than a human hair, incorporates a thin film of solar cells to generate electricity, creating a hybrid technology of electricity and pressure, according to JAXA. The potential of this technology is to enable space travel without the need for fuel, relying solely on sunlight.
The rocket was also intended to carry Japan’s first Venus-bound satellite, named Akatsuki or PLANET-C, which would collaborate closely with the Venus Express satellite launched earlier by the European Space Agency. The name of the spacecraft, Ikaros, draws parallels with the Greek mythological figure Icarus, who met his fate by flying too close to the sun and falling into the sea.