Japan is hoping to become the first nation on the planet to successfully deploy a solar-powered spacecraft. Named IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) and developed by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), IKAROS will first launch with the Venus Climate Orbiter AKATSUKI.
The solar sail part of the craft is composed of thin film solar cells with the spinning main body holding the craft's shape via centrifugal force. Hopefully, the craft's unfortunate name (harkening back to the legend of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and perished as a result) will not serve as a mark of bad luck on the its maiden voyage. The launch is scheduled to stream live this Friday, May 21 at 6:30 a.m. Japan-time here.
Via Financial Times