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IKAROS model
Model of the IKAROS spacecraft, not to scale.
Operator JAXA
Launch date 20 May 2010 21:58:22 UTC
Carrier rocket H-IIA 202
Launch site Tanegashima Space Center
Tanegashima, Japan
Mission duration ~0.5 years
elapsed: 3 years and 11 months
Flyby of Venus
Satellite of The Sun
Orbital insertion date 21 May 2010
COSPAR ID 2010-020E
Homepage http://www.jspec.jaxa.jp/e/activity/ikaros.html
Mass 315 kg (694 lb)
References: [1][2][3][4]

IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) experimental spacecraft. The spacecraft was launched on 21 May 2010, aboard an H-IIA rocket, together with the Akatsuki (Venus Climate Orbiter) probe and four other small spacecraft. IKAROS is the first spacecraft to successfully demonstrate solar-sail technology in interplanetary space.[3][5]

On 8 December 2010, IKAROS passed by Venus at about 80,800 km (50,200 mi) distance, completing the planned mission successfully, and entered its extended operation phase.[6][7][8][9]


The IKAROS probe is the world's first spacecraft to use solar sailing as the main propulsion. It plans to demonstrate four key technologies (comments in parentheses refer to figure):

  1. Deployment and control of a large, thin solar sail membrane (blue areas numbered 3)
  2. Thin-film solar cells integrated into the sail to power the payload (black rectangles numbered 4)
  3. Measurement of acceleration due to radiation pressure on the solar sail
  4. Attitude control via variable reflectance liquid crystal panels (orange rectangles numbered 2)

The mission also includes investigations of aspects of interplanetary space, such as gamma-ray bursts, solar wind and cosmic dust.[10]

The probe's ALADDIN instrument (ALDN-S and ALDN-E) measured the variation in dust density[11] while its Gamma-Ray Burst Polarimeter (GAP) measured the polarization of gamma-ray bursts during its six month cruise.[12]

If successful, IKAROS is to be followed by a 50 m (160 ft) sail, intended to journey to Jupiter and the Trojan asteroids, later in the decade.[13][14]


IKAROS sail schematic diagram:
1 (blue square on a line) Tip mass 0.5 kg (1.1 lb), 1 of 4
2 (orange rectangle) Liquid crystal device, 1 of 80
3 (blue square) Membrane 7.5 µm (0.00030 in) thick, 20 metres (66 ft) on the diagonal
4 (black rectangle) Solar cells 25 µm (0.00098 in) thick
5 (yellow and blue lines) Tethers
6 (blue disc) Main body
7 (yellow dots) Instruments
IKAROS spaceprobe in flight (artist's depiction)

The square sail, deployed via a spinning motion using 0.5-kilogram (1.1 lb) tip masses (key item 1 in figure at right), is 20 m (66 ft) on the diagonal and is made of a 7.5-micrometre (0.00030 in) thick sheet of polyimide (key item 3 in figure at right). The polyimide sheet had a mass of about 10 grams per square metre, resulting in a total sail mass of 2 kilograms, excluding tip masses, attached panels and tethers. A thin-film solar array is embedded in the sail (key item 4 in figure at right). PowerFilm, Inc. provided the thin-film solar array.[15] Eighty blocks of LCD panels are embedded in the sail,[16] whose reflectance can be adjusted for attitude control (key item 2 in figure at right). The sail also contains eight dust counters on the opposite face as part of the science payload.[17][18]

Mission progress[edit]

IKAROS was successfully launched together with Akatsuki (the Venus Climate Orbiter) aboard an H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center on 21 May 2010.

IKAROS spun at 20–25 revolutions per minute and finished unfurling its sail on 10 June 2010.[19][20][21] The craft contains two tiny ejectable cameras, DCAM1 and DCAM2. DCAM2 was used to visualise the sail after deployment on 14 July 2010.[22] One of those photos was considered in 2013 by Discovery News as one of the best space robot selfies.[23]

Acceleration and attitude (orientation) control were successfully tested during the remaining six month voyage to Venus. On 9 July 2010, JAXA confirmed that IKAROS is being accelerated by its solar sail,[24] and on 23 July announced successful attitude control.[25]

IKAROS continues to spin at approximately 2 rpm, requiring the LCD panels to be cycled at that rate for attitude control.

According to JAXA, IKAROS finished all planned experiments in Dec 2010, but the mission has continued beyond that date "in order to enhance the skill of controlling solar sail."[26] On November 30, 2012, JAXA announced that IKAROS had been recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s first solar sail spacecraft between planets, and that its two separated cameras, DCAM1 and DCAM2, had been recognized as the smallest size of a spacecraft flying between planets.[27][28] As in 2012, the IKAROS continue to spin, but its attitude control has degraded, resulting in unexpected sail motions and as result, downlink through medium-gain antenna being available only intermittently. The project team was dissolved in March 28, 2013, although trial receipt of data was planned later (August 2013).

Science results[edit]

From the gamma-ray polarization data of GAP, Toma et al[29] puts a stricter limit on CPT violation. It is an improvement of eight orders of magnitude over previous limits.[30][31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mori et al. (2009)
  2. ^ "Small Solar Power Sail Demonstrator "IKAROS"". JAXA. Retrieved 2010-10-01. 
  3. ^ a b Stephen Clark (20 May 2010). "H-2A Launch Report – Mission Status Center". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  4. ^ Samantha Harvey (21 May 2010). "Solar System Exploration: Missions: By Target: Venus: Future: Akatsuki". NASA. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  5. ^ "Launch Day of the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 17(H-IIA F17)". JAXA. 3 March 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  6. ^ "今日の IKAROS(12/10) - Daily Report - Dec 10, 2010". IKAROS Blog (in Japanese). JAXA. 10 December 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  7. ^ "2010年の締めくくり(12/26) - Daily Report - Dec 26, 2010". IKAROS Blog (in Japanese). JAXA. 26 December 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  8. ^ "宇宙帆船イカロス、お疲れさま…実験終え「人工惑星」に" (in Japanese). Asahi Shimbun. 10 December 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  9. ^ Mori, Osamu (26 January 2011). "小型ソーラー電力セイル実証機(IKAROS)の定常運用終了報告" (PDF) (in Japanese). JAXA. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  10. ^ "小型ソーラー電力セイル実証機「IKAROS(イカロス)」のガンマ線バーストの観測成功について" (in Japanese). JAXA. 2010-07-14. Retrieved 2010-07-15. 
  11. ^ Yano, H.; et al. "COSMIC DUST DETECTION BY THE IKAROS-ARRAYED LARGE-AREA DUST DETECTORS IN INTERPLANETARY SPACE (ALADDIN) FROM THE EARTH TO VENUS". 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (2011). Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  12. ^ Yonetoku, D.; et al (26 October 2010). "Gamma-Ray Burst Polarimeter - GAP - aboard the Small Solar Power Sail Demonstrator IKAROS". arXiv:1010.5305 [astro-ph.IM].
  13. ^ "IKAROS Project". JAXA. 2008. Retrieved 12 July 2010. "The second mission will take place in the late 2010s. It will involve a medium-sized solar power sail with a diameter of 50m, and will have integrated ion-propulsion engines. The destinations of the spacecraft will be Jupiter and the Trojan asteroids." 
  14. ^ http://www.space.com/8800-japan-solar-sail-toast-space-science.html
  15. ^ Claire M. Umali (4 May 2010). "Japan tests power of solar sails in deep space". EcoSeed. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  16. ^ "Small Solar Power Sail Demonstrator 'IKAROS': Successful Attitude Control by Liquid Crystal Device". Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). 23 July 2010. 
  17. ^ "Small Solar Power Sail Demonstrator". JAXA. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  18. ^ "IKAROS Project". JAXA. 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  19. ^ Edwards, Lin (11 June 2010). "IKAROS unfurls first ever solar sail in space". PhysOrg. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  20. ^ Staff writers (11 June 2010). "Japanese Spacecraft Deploys Solar Sail". Space.com. Retrieved 11 June 2010. 
  21. ^ Amos, Jonathan (11 June 2010). "Japan unfurls Ikaros solar sail in space". BBC News. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  22. ^ Staff writers (16 June 2010). "Mini-camera pictures Japan's Ikaros solar sail". BBC News. Retrieved 17 June 2010. 
  23. ^ O'Neill, Ian (5 December 2013). "Top 10 Space Robot 'Selfies': Photos". Discovery News. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  24. ^ "About the confirmation of photon acceleration of "IKAROS" the small solar-sail demonstrating craft". JAXA website press release (Press release) (in Japanese). Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. 9 July 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011. "Graph suggests approx 1.1mN force" 
  25. ^ "Small Solar Power Sail Demonstrator 'IKAROS'Successful Attitude Control by Liquid Crystal Device" (Press release). Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). 23 July 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  26. ^ "Solar Power Sail Demonstrator "IKAROS"". Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  27. ^ "IKAROS world record certified!". Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). 30 November 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  28. ^ "JAXA’s solar spacecraft gets Guinness World Records entry". The Asahi Shimbun. 30 December 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  29. ^ Kenji Toma et al (2012). "Strict Limit on CPT Violation from Polarization of γ-Ray Bursts". Physical Review Letters 109 (24): 241104. arXiv:1208.5288. Bibcode:2012PhRvL.109x1104T. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.241104. 
  30. ^ Michael Schirber. "Synopsis: Distant Bursts Show no Signs of Predicted Light Rotation". American Physical Society. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Strict Limit on CPT Violation from Gamma-Ray Bursts". Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe. December 7, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 


External links[edit]