Join Donate

Jason DavisOctober 26, 2015

LightSail Deployer Passes Prox-1 Fit Check

Last week, hardware for the Prox-1 and LightSail programs came together for the very first time.

At Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo engineers loaded a P-POD replica into the partially assembled frame of the Prox-1 spacecraft. The meetup was a fit check to make sure the two pieces of hardware fit together as designed.

P-POD fit check

Georgia Tech

P-POD fit check
Georgia Tech undergraduate student William Neidecker-Gonzales (left) and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo employees Justin Foley (center) and Ryan Nugent (right) install a P-POD simulator into the Prox-1 flight structure during a fit check. A similar P-POD will hold the LightSail 2 spacecraft.

A P-POD, or Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer, is a spring-loaded container slightly bigger than a three-unit CubeSat, which measures 10 by 10 by 30 centimeters. When LightSail is ready for flight, it will slide snugly into a P-POD, and the P-POD will be installed in Prox-1.

On Oct. 20, Cal Poly engineers and Georgia Tech students successfully installed a model P-POD into the Prox-1 chassis, which has been partially constructed. “It fit beautifully,” said Dave Spencer, Prox-1 principal investigator and mission manager for the LightSail-B mission.

LightSail and Prox-1 will launch to a circular, 720-kilometer orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy. Liftoff is currently scheduled for Sept. 15, 2016. After completing an initial checkout, Prox-1 will release LightSail by opening the spacecraft's P-POD door. The pod’s coiled spring will push LightSail into open space. Later, Prox-1 will track LightSail and rendezvous with the CubeSat using visual and thermal imagery, ultimately watching as LightSail deploys its 32-square-meter solar sails.

LightSail 2 P-POD simulator in Prox-1 structure

Georgia Tech

LightSail 2 P-POD simulator in Prox-1 structure
A LightSail 2 P-POD simulator sits installed in the Prox-1 spacecraft flight structure. LightSail will be installed in a similar P-POD, and both spacecraft will ride to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

Read more: LightSail

You are here:
Jason Davis headshot v.3
Jason Davis

Journalist and Digital Editor for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Jason Davis

Comments & Sharing
MER
Let's Change the World

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration.

Join Today

Emily Lakdwalla
The Planetary Fund

Support enables our dedicated journalists to research deeply and bring you original space exploration articles.

Donate