Flight by light for CubeSats
CubeSats are tiny satellites that hitch rides to space aboard rockets carrying larger payloads. The low cost of these satellites has 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 has been successfully demonstrated by Japan’s IKAROS mission, and NASA’s NanoSail-D gathered data on using solar sailing as a method of de-orbiting defunct satellites.
The Planetary Society’s LightSail program will take the technology a step further. The LightSail-A spacecraft will go on a shakedown cruise to test sail deployment and spacecraft operations. LightSail-B will attempt to demonstrate controlled solar sailing. Launch dates are coming soon.
The Planetary Society's LightSail spacecraft successfully deployed its solar sails Thursday, wrapping up an initial round of system-level tests to prepare the CubeSat for flight.
LightSail has completed its first round of flight testing. The spacecraft is now armed with new software that will transmit almost three times as much health and status data back to Earth than it did during last year's test flight.
Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/12/17 11:52 CST
On Monday, LightSail engineers and mission managers met at The Planetary Society's Pasadena, California headquarters to prepare for a rigorous suite of spacecraft tests that are expected to begin in January.