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LightSail 2 is officially in space! The Planetary Society's solar sail CubeSat lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida on 25 June at 02:30 EDT (06:30 UTC). The late-night launch came courtesy of SpaceX's triple-booster Falcon Heavy rocket, which was carrying 24 spacecraft for the U.S. Air Force's STP-2 mission.
We lost and gained spacecraft at the Moon last quarter. India’s Chandrayaan-2 left Earth orbit for the Moon on 13 August, and its Vikram lander aims at a 7 September touchdown. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter just celebrated its tenth launch anniversary. China’s smallsat Longjiang-2 crashed on 31 July, ending its successful mission.
I explore space because I like feeling insignificant. I crave a dark night sky that reminds me that our Sun and even our galaxy are not unique. I find comfort in thinking about countless generations of humans looking at the same sky and asking questions similar to the ones I ask.
CubeSats have made low-cost space missions a reality for universities and research groups. However, these tiny satellites lack propulsion. LightSail will demonstrate the viability of solar sailing for CubeSats.