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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. 

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Josh Spradling

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

How LightSail and a NASA study helped pave the way for Mars-bound CubeSats

Jason Davis • September 26, 2018 • 1

Two NASA CubeSats are approaching Mars — an impressive accomplishment for a concept many people regarded with derision just 15 years ago.

The day I caught rocket fever

MaryLiz Bender • September 20, 2018 • 3

On February 6, 2018, I found myself shoulder to shoulder with two of my heroes: Bill Nye on the left, Buzz Aldrin on the right. Our eyes were fixed on the first vertical Falcon Heavy rocket. Figuring the world's most powerful rocket might send me flying backwards once the countdown hit zero, I gripped the railing so tightly I started to lose the feeling in my fingertips.

LightSail 2 updates: Launch date slips, environmental test complete, new video released

Jason Davis • August 08, 2018

LightSail 2's ride to space won't happen until at least November 30, as SpaceX works through a list of other payloads in line to fly first.

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