London, July 5 : The concept of a solar sail will get a major boost when on July 29 this year, a tiny NASA spacecraft called "NanoSail-D" is scheduled to go into Earth orbit.
According to a report in New Scientist, proponents of technology that seeks to propel spacecraft using the pressure exerted by photons from the sun on thin "solar sails" are looking at this spacecraft for another chance to get their idea off the ground.
Earlier, missions by the US non-profit Planetary Society to test solar sail technology failed in 2001 and 2005, because the rockets needed to get them into space malfunctioned.
Now, they look set for a comeback as early as July 29, when NanoSail-D will go into Earth orbit, with the aim being to demonstrate the feasibility of deploying sails in orbit.
The spacecraft will unfurl four 3-metre-wide sails made of plastic film coated with aluminium.
In addition to feeling pressure from sunlight, it is hoped that the sails will experience a slight drag from Earth's outer atmosphere.
Similar sails could one day be used to bring normal satellites back to Earth after their missions, reducing orbital clutter.