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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

Read the press release

Read the story

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 Gets Backup Burn Wire for 2016 Mission

Jason Davis • September 25, 2015 • 3

LightSail's burn wire, the mission-critical component responsible for releasing the spacecraft's solar panels, will get a backup ahead of next year's solar sailing mission.

How to Download Weather Satellite Images from Space

Jason Davis • September 21, 2015 • 3

For less than $50, you can download images from NOAA satellites using your laptop and a small radio antenna.

A Kilometer Per Day: LightSail Mission Managers Refine Orbit-Raising Plan

Jason Davis • September 04, 2015 • 6

LightSail will spiral away from Earth by about one kilometer per day, according to the latest orbital estimates by Georgia Tech's Space Systems Design Laboratory.

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