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Solar Spacecraft Believed Functioning But Off Course

22 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Scientists say they may have detected a signal from the world's first solar sail space craft.

The privately funded Cosmos 1 was launched on a ballistic missile from the Barents Sea yesterday.

The sponsors hope the craft, which will deploy a petal- shaped solar sail to power its planned orbit around Earth, will show that sunlight could power interplanetary space travel.

The spacecraft initially appeared to be lost almost immediately after its launch.

But mission controllers in Pasadena, California, said that signals were found early today in a review of data recorded at ground tracking stations in Russia, the Pacific Ocean, and the Czech Republic.

The signals appeared to show that the spacecraft is "alive" but possibly in a lower orbit that planned.