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LightSail Drama Continues as Spacecraft Wakes for Second Time

Posted by Jason Davis

06-06-2015 16:45 CDT

Topics: mission status, LightSail

LightSail is back in business, following the second extended outage of the test spacecraft’s mission. The CubeSat checked in at 2:21 p.m. EDT (18:21 UTC) Saturday for the first time since Wednesday afternoon. Over the course of two overflights, 23 beacon telemetry packets were received by the spacecraft's Cal Poly San Luis Obispo ground station.

A rapid sail deployment was briefly considered, but with battery levels still unsteady and just one ground pass remaining before an eight-and-a-half hour outage, the team scrapped the idea. When LightSail came around the Earth again, telemetry showed its batteries were charging—the first time since solar panel deployment three days ago.

If battery levels continue to trend stably during Sunday’s early morning ground station passes, sail deployment will be scheduled for 2:02 p.m. EDT (18:02 UTC).

Engineers have been working to narrow down the reason LightSail’s batteries tripped into a safe mode-like condition following solar panel deployment. Before this afternoon's signal acquisition, the leading theory was that the spacecraft was stuck in a loop where power levels were too low in Earth's shadow, but too high in sunlight. This power ping-pong could have prevented the batteries from reattaching their circuits to the spacecraft and allowing normal operations to resume. The analysis is still ongoing.

LightSail and the Milky Way (artist's rendition)
LightSail and the Milky Way (artist's rendition)
See other posts from June 2015


Or read more blog entries about: mission status, LightSail


tpsldf: 06/06/2015 04:58 CDT

Images from the camera?

Mark: 06/06/2015 08:12 CDT

I hope the folks who built this are taking copious amounts of notes, upgrades, revisions and much troubleshooting remains before launching the real deal.

Geoff: 06/06/2015 10:21 CDT

6/6/2015 The Planetary Society You should consider working with or incorporating the ideas of these people and organizations into the Light Sail Project: Planetary Resources: B612 Foundation: Robert Winglee: NASA Laser Communication: All this teck can be used to augment a Solar Sail design, Think of it; a probe that will never run out of fuel....... Question? If you could see the sail in a telescope from earth could you send a laser message to that point in space or would you need to aim where the sail would be in the travel time for light to get to the spacecraft? Do you need to lead the target so to speak... How about using the sail to drop a transponder onto asteroids? Or a laser / Radar Reflector? for ID and Tracking. also is it true the solar win and magnetic field moving in different ways so a magsail combined with a light sail would be able to move using both forces? Keep up the great work TPL! Geoff Jones Bennington VT

Quietist: 06/07/2015 09:12 CDT - "Sunjammer" project I remember reading about the "light sail" idea in a short story by Arthur C. Clarke in the March 1964 issue of Boy's Life: - Complete short story here, with illustrations. I was very impressed with the idea at the time and looked forward to one day seeing it implemented. Thank you NASA - keep at it!

Bob Ware: 06/07/2015 02:00 CDT

AGeoff -- just an FYI in regards to your last idea with asteroids; you may be aware but if not, have you checked out the LazerBees project? If not, you'll be interested in it I believe.

MooseDr00l: 06/08/2015 07:28 CDT

I would like to know how the light sail can be steered. If the power comes from the sun, and there is no reaction motor, what force is used as a fulcrum to change direction? wouldn't the craft want to travel directly away from the sun regardless of the angle of the sail?

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