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Breakthrough Starshot Launches, Operates “Smallest Ever” Spacecraft In Orbit.

Scientific American (7/26, Billings) reports that the $100 million “Breakthrough Starshot” initiative, which aims to “send robotic mission to nearby stars by the mid-21st century,” has officially launched its “first spacecraft--the smallest ever launched and operated in orbit.” Representatives of the project worked extensively with the U.S. State Department “to ensure the project did not violate strict federal regulations,” and say “the organization is set to solicit research proposals for the associated ‘grand challenges’ in optics, communications, materials science and other disciplines later this year.” Breakthrough Starshot’s executive director Pete Worden stated, “This is a very early version of what we would send to interstellar distances. In addition, this is another clear demonstration that it is possible for countries to work together to do great things in space. These are European spacecraft with U.S. nanosatellite payloads launching on an Indian booster—you can’t get much more international than that.”