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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

Update: Monitoring the Weather?

Posted by Louis D. Friedman on 2006/10/20 12:00 CDT

The bigger the dream, the harder it is to achieve it. Our dream at The Planetary Society is to fly the first solar sail mission -- and prove the technology that might someday take humanity to the stars.

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Update: Getting Started

Posted by Louis D. Friedman on 2005/12/02 11:00 CST

The Planetary Society solar sail team is working to try again to fly the world’s first solar sail spacecraft.

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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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