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.
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.
The Planetary Society’s LightSail test mission successfully completed its primary objective of deploying a solar sail in low-Earth orbit.
It’s official: The sails are out. This afternoon, LightSail mission controllers downlinked a partial image of the spacecraft’s solar sails in space.
Fifteen years ago, Society members and passionate space advocates like you helped save the Pluto mission. Now we can do the same for missions to Europa and Mars.
Join over 27,600 people who have completed their petition and consider a donation to support advocacy efforts.