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Russian space agency says solar sail launch fails

Updated:
MOSCOW (AP) _ The Russian space agency on Wednesday said the attempt to launch a solar sail space vehicle was not successful because the booster rocket's engine failed soon after it blasted into space.

The booster failed 83 seconds after its launch from a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea, the space agency said.

Its spokesman, Vyacheslav Davidenko, said that ``the booster's failure means that the solar sail vehicle was lost.''

The launch late Tuesday was part of a joint Russian-U.S project attempting the first controlled flight of a solar sail. Solar sails are envisioned as a potential means for achieving interstellar flight in the future, allowing such spacecraft to gradually build up great velocity and cover large distances.

The Russian Defense Ministry has launched a search for debris from the booster and the vehicle.

U.S. scientists had said they may have detected signals from the spacecraft, but cautioned that it could take hours or days to figure out exactly where the $4 million Cosmos 1 is.

The signals were picked up late Tuesday after an all-day search for the spacecraft, which had suddenly stopped communicating after its launch from a Russian submarine, they said.
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