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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. 

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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 2 updates: Prox-1 mission changes, new launch date

Jason Davis • July 21, 2017 • 2

LightSail 2 and Prox-1 are expected to launch board a SpaceX Falcon Heavy no earlier than April 30, 2018.

LightSail 2 partner spacecraft ships safely to New Mexico

Jason Davis • June 02, 2017

Georgia Tech's Prox-1 spacecraft has arrived at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where it will be integrated with LightSail 2. The SmallSats will ride to orbit on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in December 2017 or later.

Bill Nye Honors Carl Sagan, Talks LightSail® on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

Erin Greeson • May 09, 2017 • 2

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” In a nod to Sagan (Bill’s Astronomy professor at Cornell University), Bill unveiled his own shiny version of a crude model.

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