Cosmos 1, First Solar Sail, to be Launched from Submarine

First Solar Sail to be Launched into Orbit from Russian Submarine (VOA News)

The world’s first solar sail is being prepared for launch Tuesday from a Russian atomic submarine in the Barents Sea. The private U.S.-Russian consortium sponsoring the takeoff calls the spacecraft Cosmos 1. Its designers say the large, lightweight reflective sheet will revolutionize space propulsion by using the gentle shove of sunlight rather than costly fuel.

A solar sail might do for space missions what fabric sails once did for sea travel. It would use free, natural energy to move a craft across distances in the heavens not now possible, partly because of limits to the amount of heavy fuel that can be carried.

“It’s the only known technology that can lead us to interstellar flight, to the stars,” says Louis Friedman, the president of a private U.S. space advocacy group called the Planetary Society. The group is working to fly Cosmos 1 with the Lavochkin Association, one of Russia’s largest aerospace companies, and the Space Research Institute in Russia.

“It gets all of its propulsive energy from the sun. The sunlight photons, the energy of sunlight or light beams, is what propels the spacecraft. So it’s something that you can travel both through our own planetary system, maybe to other planetary systems, without any fuel,” says Mr. Friedman.

While some great inventions immediately make you think, “Now, there’s something I could have come up with,” a sail powered spacecraft launched from a submarine is surely not one of them. Talk about thinking outside the box.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    I’d strongly suggest they not launch this thing from right off the North American coast…

  2. Dave Smith says:

    I am pretty sure the American government would’ve been made aware of this launch.
    And it really doesn’t matter, as an ICBM can reach North America launched from a submarine sitting dockside in Russia.