Cosmos 1 will be launched on a converted intercontinental ballistic missile and, once in orbit, will unfurl eight ultra-thin triangular sails, each about 14m long, in a windmill formation.
The private US-Russian consortium that developed the craft said photons, or light particles, bouncing off the reflective sails would propel it.
If successful, the mission will be as significant a milestone for space exploration as the invention of the fabric sail was for travel on Earth.
Solar sails could replace rockets on some spacecraft within a decade and, with a boost from a satellite-based laser, reach Pluto within two years and Alpha Centauri, the closest star to Earth, within 1000."
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