NASA is preparing to test solar sails using a rocket engine.
The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) said Thursday it will test its new, helium-2-powered solar sail powered by a liquid hydrogen (Li-2) engine at a test site in the Mojave Desert, Nevada.
The engine test will take place on the Mojavius Space Launch Complex-4 at a location known as the Blue Mountain Solar Range, SpaceX said.
The test is part of the agency’s effort to develop and deploy a fully reusable solar sail, which is designed to use spaceflight technology to capture and transmit solar energy back to Earth.
A number of companies, including Google and Microsoft, have already tested solar sails in space.
The rocket engine will be used to accelerate the spacecraft, which SpaceX describes as a “spacecraft that can deliver spacecraft, payloads, and technology to orbit, at a rate of up to 500 metric tons per second (m/s) in space.”
The first test flight is expected to take place next year.
The company is hoping to have its solar sail ready for deployment in 2020, when NASA will send astronauts to the International Space Station, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in April.