Cosmos 1 is part of a grand new age of exploration that is unfurling about us. This is not a government funded mission — nor do we expect a huge cash prize at the end. This is a mission of true exploration, sponsored by Cosmos Studios, and supported by Members of The Planetary Society from all over the world.

What do we expect? We expect to test a truly new type of technology – a Solar Sail Spacecraft. A technology that could some day take us to the stars.

A solar sail is a spacecraft without an engine – it is pushed along directly by light particles from the Sun, reflecting off giant mirror-like sails. Because it carries no fuel and keeps accelerating over almost unlimited distances, it is the only technology now in existence that can one day take us to the stars.

Cosmos 1 has 8 triangular sails, each 15 meters (50 feet) in length, configured around the spacecraft’s body at the center. The sails will be deployed by inflatable tubes once the spacecraft is in orbit.

The spacecraft will be launched from a submerged Russian submarine in the Barents Sea. It will be carried into orbit on board a Volna rocket – a converted ICBM left over from the old Soviet arsenal.

Cosmos 1 will orbit the Earth at an altitude of over 800 kilometers. It will gradually raise its orbit by solar sailing — the pressure of light particles from the Sun upon its luminous sails.

The Spacecraft is being built in Russia by NPO Lavochkin under contract to The Planetary Society. Cosmos Studios is the project’s sole sponsor.

The mission will demonstrate the feasibility of Solar Sail flight, opening the way to interplanetary travel and someday – sailing to the stars.

More here.