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"We [science fiction writers] always wanted to believe in "private sector" space -- hucksters make better characters than a government does."
- Larry Niven

Starlight Sail (Light Sail)  
  A light sail capable of sailing between solar systems.  

I don't know of an earlier reference to light sails in science fiction.

"Now this is the way that the foresail works. That sail will be twenty thousand miles at the wide part. It tapers down and the total length will be just under eighty-thousand miles. It will be retracted or extended by small servo-robots. The servo-robots are radio-controlled."
From The Lady Who Sailed The Soul, by Cordwainer Smith.
Published by Galaxy in 1960
Additional resources -

The pilot lived in a tiny control room; flights lasted an average of forty years. The ship had a string of thousands of adiabatic pods, each containing a passenger.

See the longer discussion of light sails (solar sails) from Jack Vance's Sail 25.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Lady Who Sailed The Soul
  More Ideas and Technology by Cordwainer Smith
  Tech news articles related to The Lady Who Sailed The Soul
  Tech news articles related to works by Cordwainer Smith

Starlight Sail (Light Sail)-related news articles:
  - Cosmos 1 Sets Solar Sail - Update
  - NanoSail-D Solar Wind-Rider
  - Ikaros Solar Sail Craft Photo Of Venus

Articles related to Space Tech
Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup
Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
Astronaut Gets Younger In Space

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