First Look: Partial Camera Test Images from LightSail
Posted by Jason Davis
01-06-2015 19:02 CDT
Update, June 2: The first image has finished downloading!
Original story from June 1:
A jumbled JPG never looked so pretty.
This afternoon, LightSail sent home the first part of two test images taken by one of the spacecraft's onboard cameras. The images were compiled from data collected during an 11-minute Cal Poly ground station pass at about 2:00 p.m. PDT (5:00 p.m. EDT, 21:00 UTC).
The pictures look disorganized, cluttered and incomplete because they haven't finished downloading yet. They'll get filled in with each successive ground station pass, similar to the way you might see an image slowly load on a computer. The spacecraft is currently out of range until Tuesday morning, when it will sail past Georgia Tech at 5:10 a.m. EDT.
In an earlier post, I showed how a JPG from Cal Poly's IPEX spacecraft was assembled over multiple ground station passes. While the IPEX image looks much tidier as it gets assembled, this gives you an idea of how the image gets constructed:
So, what are we looking at in those LightSail images? It's the inside of the spacecraft, as seen from one of LightSail's inward-facing cameras. I put together this chart to show where the cameras are located, and how they hinge outward before solar sail deployment:
If that still doesn't help, this Vine is for you:
It's still too early to make any definitive conclusions from the images, but seeing pieces of the inside of the spacecraft is definitely a good sign—it increases the liklihood that the panels are still closed. For comparison's sake, here's what this same inward-facing view looked like from the ground, under office lighting. The golden spindle at the top of the frame is the underside of LightSail's sail deployment motor.
As of Monday evening, sail deployment remains on track for Wednesday morning. Any images obtained after that should be far more exciting. The target sail deployment ground pass begins at 11:45 a.m. EDT.