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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

A Busy Summer

Bruce Betts • December 17, 2018

Bruce Betts reports on LightSail 2’s status and looks to the future of solar sailing.

LightSail 2 launch pushed to early 2019

Jason Davis • October 29, 2018 • 2

An Air Force official says an ‘initial launch capability’ is being reassessed.

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.

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