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LightSail

Flight by light for CubeSats

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. 

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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

The End of Cosmos 1, the Beginning of the Next Chapter

Posted by Louis D. Friedman on 2005/09/30 12:00 CDT

Cosmos 1 was—and is—a great effort, and one we are proud The Planetary Society tried to do. Our independent grassroots organization built and launched a spacecraft whose technology promises to one day open up interstellar travel.

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Volna Failure Review Board Reports on Loss of Cosmos 1

Posted by Louis D. Friedman on 2005/07/20 12:00 CDT

The Volna Failure Review Board convened by the Makeev Rocket Design Bureau, manufacturers of the Volna launch vehicle, has made its final report to the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, concerning the attempted June 21 launch of our Cosmos 1 spacecraft.

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The Planetary Society Asks "Where is Cosmos 1?" Received Signals May Have Come from Solar Sail Spacecraft in Orbit

Posted by Susan Lendroth on 2005/07/01 12:00 CDT

The Planetary Society continues to investigate the mystery of what happened to its Cosmos 1 spacecraft - a joint project with Cosmos Studios - that launched last week on a Russian Volna rocket.

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