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LightSail is Ready for Launch! Join Us as the Countdown Begins

Posted by Jennifer Vaughn

27-06-2014 15:38 CDT

Topics: Planetary Society Projects, events and announcements, Planetary Radio, LightSail

After years of careful development supported by members like you, we’re ready to celebrate. We hope you can join us for a live webcast on Wednesday, July 9 from 7:00—8:30 p.m. PDT as we make a major announcement about our solar sail spacecraft, LightSail 1. Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye and Planetary Radio host Mat Kaplan will welcome special guests, including LightSail Program Manager Doug Stetson. 

Solar sailing. It has been called the only practical way to reach the stars, but driving spacecraft across the solar system with the pressure of sunlight also offers big advantages over traditional rocket engines. Closer to home, solar sails may give us access to unique orbits for vital Earth science and space weather missions.  

LightSail will spread its silver wings once it reaches orbit, becoming visible to nearly everyone on Earth as it demonstrates this promising new technology for space travel. You’ll hear about the mission, get an inside look at this tiny, highly-innovative CubeSat, and meet the engineer/explorers who built it. The evening will climax with an exciting announcement about how LightSail will begin its journey.

Donate to LightSail

You made it happen, now we want you to be there as we set sail for the final frontier.

In-person seating for the event is now full, but you can still follow the announcement live on the webcast. Thanks!

See other posts from June 2014


Or read more blog entries about: Planetary Society Projects, events and announcements, Planetary Radio, LightSail


Jonathan Ursin: 06/27/2014 08:23 CDT

L1 or bust!!!

Doug Currie: 07/01/2014 05:08 CDT

I am glad the Planetary Society's Lightsail solar sail is now almost ready for launch and I hope the launch and whole mission is successful to achieve a successful mission for the Planetary Society and to advance this technology. However I have a related question. What ever became of Japan's solar sail they demonstrated in the vicinity of the planet Venus. The last I heard it was working fine in that area. Is it still working now and if so where is it and how well is it working and if so why don't we hear about it more?

Dana Luterick: 07/04/2014 12:57 CDT

Thanks for all of the years of hard work on this project. I hope the launch and the entire mission is successful. High quality projects like this one are needed for the future of space exploration. Thanks

Richardo Brown: 07/07/2014 07:53 CDT

Finally the Launch of Light Sail II, My Home Team will be satisfied that the Certificate of Light Sail I will finally be launch so I won't be hung by the Stars...(Smile)...Thank You NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Planetary Society and the other World Space Agencies of Planet Earth. Now for the JAXA Hayabusa II launch 2014 (July maybe...on Schedule???!!? Richardo Brown, A.A., A.S. (3-Dot Sciencebase Laboratory/Multi Skills Technology)

Masanori Watanabe: 07/09/2014 11:01 CDT

Hello Mr Doug. Few informations from a fan of IKAROS-kun. The latest announcement came out on 26th May 2014. You can see it online while I have not seen the English version. According to this announcement, ISAS (Institute Of Space And Astronomical Science, who built and has operated IKAROS-kun) succeeded to detect the signal from IKAROS-kun on 22nd May by searching by using the past data while he was about 230 million kilometres away. This means, as expected by the mission team, IKAROS-kun woke up again, which was expected to happen in sometime in April. (Perhaps I should add that as far as I have heard the mission team is no longer fully functioning anymore as many of them are focusing on Hayabusa 2. But still continue operating IKAROS-kun when worth, to learn more about solar sailing but only between other jobs.) The mission team would keep getting data until around June. This is his 3rd wake-up, and he has woken up after each of all his hibernations and every time the mission team has detected the signal. The announcement also explains that IKAROS-kun is orbiting the Sun in about 10 months and hibernating for 7 months because of which way the solar array is facing. No information since then from the mission team but IKAROS-kun's tweets ( tell the mission team was not only receiving the signal but also communicating with and operating IKAROS-kun. Fly LightSail-1!

Andrew Planet: 07/10/2014 07:30 CDT

I was wondering whether the sail can also be used as a parabolic dish to amplify radio transmissions, to and from the spacecraft, or to concentrate reflected starlight to the solar panels, especially when this dims relative to the distance positioned from the Sun or any star? Would some sail fabrics lend themselves more to the latter than other ones?

Doug Currie: 07/10/2014 10:58 CDT

Hi Masanori Watanabe; Thank you for the informative update of the IKAROS-kun Japanese solar sail. My question for you and the Japanese space agency as well as the Planetary Society is when the main mission is over as seems to be the case with the IKAROS-kun why not try to direct the solar sail outward from the sun to see how far it can keep going and space agencies on earth can keep in contact with it or the Planetary Society's Lightsail and also to measure how fast it is going as we will need to be able to do this even to interstellar distances at a good speed if we hope to use solar sails to conduct unmanned in place survey of (especially potentially habitable) planets of other stars such as the Gliese 667 C or Gliese 832 or Tau Ceti systems in the future.

Andrew Planet: 07/11/2014 06:12 CDT

Would having augmented amounts of electric power available from using the sail as a reflector or as a photovoltaic panel in itself (or both) increase the potential for a hybrid spacecraft inclusive of an ion drive?

Masanori Watanabe: 07/11/2014 07:33 CDT

Hi Mr Doug I try to answer to part of your questions which is about IKAROS-kun. But before that, I found the official information page in English This might contains largest amount in English about IKAROS-kun. But as I don't see it in English usually, my words' poor expression and the expression on such web page is perhaps different even when saying the same While I don't know exactly what you mean by "main mission", the regular operation phase was completed on 26th January 2011 and moved into the post operational phase. The disband of the mission team was announced on 28th March 2013 but following that, I heard some team members saying they love to continue contacting IKAROS-kun between other jobs, one of which can be seen in a blog entry of the IKAROS Blog (Japanese) which has been written by the team members themselves. So it's quite unclear to me which moment they see as the end of main mission. But there is one thing that I speculate as a possible reason for not heading towards outer Solar System: One of the most interesting facts to me is that as far as I know they have never used the Middle Gain Antenna yet and there must be lots of data which are not downlinked yet, including pictures taken by onboard camera (if they have not lost them!). So I suspect they must be looking forward to the moment they can get them by using Middle Gain Antenna when finally all conditions meet. So they might have wanted to keep IKAROS-kun close. If they can learn what they want to learn (which perhaps includes how and how much the shape/orientation/spin speed/etc of the sail changes by the Sunlight and how much each of those changes affect on IKAROS-kun's orbit) even if IKAROS-kun stays close, I think it can be a strong option. As this is an engineering demonstrating mission, for a future solar sailing mission towards outer Solar System.

Andrew Planet: 07/11/2014 06:42 CDT

Would a hybrid LightSail/Ion drive require the ion drive to alway giving a less amount of push than the sail, otherwise the overall structure would collapse on itself? Alternatively, to avoid the latter, could an ion Drive be also placed in the middle of the sail itself? Also, if not placed on the sail, (or use both) an ion drive could push from behind attached to the sail with a stiff thin rod

Doug Currie: 07/14/2014 09:05 CDT

Thank you Masanori Watanabe for the useful information. I hope the Japanese space agency can soon get additional information from the Middle Gain Antennae. Do you have some idea when that might me? Has JAXA announced even a tentative date for a future solar sail mission to the outer solar system or do they want to get the information on the existing solar sail before they say anything definite about a follow up mission?

Masanori Watanabe: 07/17/2014 01:32 CDT

Hi Mr Doug I have no idea about when ISAS will be able to get those data from IKAROS-kun. But I'm sure the mission team know that. Because, othsewise they cannot know where IKAROS-kun is at now and cannot find his signal. IKAROS-kun's orbit is always changing because of not only the Sunlight but also factors on IKAROS-kun which I mentioned in my previous comment, so I have an impression that the mission team now almost fully understand those factors including which way the solar arrays are facing and, of course, which way Middle Gain Antenna is facing. I think no official announcement was made by now from ISAS or JAXA about when to launch the next solar sail mission. But IKAROS-kun's mission team members have occasionally said they want it to be in early 2020s. One of its reasons is the locations of Earth and Jupiter. Let's remember that the next solar sail mission is not running as an approved project yet, while they have been preparing for it already, including how to fold much much larger sail and how much solar arrays should be put. I wonder that even if it is approved as a project now, the project cannot fully function until Hayabusa 2 would drop its sample capsule towards Woomera desert in Australia. Because basically those mission teams's members are the same group of people as far as I have seen.

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