Solar Sailing to Venus

I have been a supporter of solar sails for a long time. If the technology was successfully developed it would allow spacecraft , including crewed vehicles, to explore the Solar System without the requirement of fuel. As well missions which would be impossible such as hovering over the poles, become achievable. There has been several attempts to fly solar sails but they have generally ended in failure. Finally , success seems to have  been achieved. The Japanese space agency JAXA has managed to deploy the IKAROS solar sail:
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) began to deploy the solar sail of the Small Solar Power Sail Demonstrator “IKAROS” on June 3 (Japan Standard Time). On June 10 (JST,) we have confirmed that it was successfully expanded and was generating power through its thin film solar cells at about 770 km from the Earth.
The IKAROS was launched on May 21, 2010 (JST), from the Tanegashima Space Center.
We will measure and observe the power generation status of the thin film solar cells, accelerate the satellite by photon pressure, and verify the orbit control through that acceleration. Through these activities, we will ultimately aim at acquiring navigation technology through the solar sail. 

If the spacecraft continues to preform well it will be sent to Venus.

Congratulations to JAXA and the Japanese people!


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