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LightSail

Flight by light for CubeSats

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LightSail-1 has a launch date! The Planetary Society's solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to launch aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy in April 2016. 

Replay the live announcement

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Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society

LightSail-1 Mission Trailer

CubeSats are tiny, low-cost satellites that have opened up new avenues of space research for universities and small organizations.

In order for CubeSat applications to reach the next level, the miniature satellites need a reliable form of propulsion for orbital maneuvers and trips beyond our planet. This is where solar sailing—transferring the momentum of photons to a large reflective sail—comes in. The technology was successfully used by Japan’s IKAROS mission in 2010, and NASA’s NanoSail-D test-deployed a CubeSat solar sail in Earth orbit later that year.

In 2016, The Planetary Society’s LightSail program will take the technology a step further. LightSail-1 will attempt to demonstrate controlled solar sailing—flight by light—for CubeSats.

Project updates

LightSail 2 partner spacecraft ships safely to New Mexico

Jason Davis • June 02, 2017

Georgia Tech's Prox-1 spacecraft has arrived at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where it will be integrated with LightSail 2. The SmallSats will ride to orbit on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in December 2017 or later.

Bill Nye Honors Carl Sagan, Talks LightSail® on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

Erin Greeson • May 09, 2017 • 2

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” In a nod to Sagan (Bill’s Astronomy professor at Cornell University), Bill unveiled his own shiny version of a crude model.

Old documents shine new light on NASA's plan to send a solar sail to Halley's Comet

Jason Davis • May 04, 2017 • 3

The Planetary Society's LightSail project has roots in a late-1970s NASA plan to send a giant solar sail spacecraft to Halley's Comet. Now, a cache of archival documents adds new depth to the audacious plan.

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