Jason DavisJun 19, 2019

Here's Our First Look at LightSail 2 Installed on SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket

Behold: Our first picture of The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft, all buttoned up and ready for its ride to orbit!

Prox-1 installed on Falcon Heavy
Prox-1 installed on Falcon Heavy Prox-1, holding The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft, is seen here installed on the payload stack for the U.S. Air Force's STP-2 mission. LightSail 2's P-POD—a small box the size of a loaf of bread—can be seen sticking out the top of Prox-1.Image: SpaceX
Prox-1 installed on Falcon Heavy (labeled)
Prox-1 installed on Falcon Heavy (labeled) This image labels the position of The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft inside Prox-1.Image: SpaceX / The Planetary Society

The golden suitcase-sized box you're looking at here is Prox-1, snugly attached to the stack of spacecraft that will sit atop SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket for launch. Sticking out the top of Prox-1 is the front door of a spring-loaded canister called a P-POD. LightSail 2 is inside the P-POD. A week after the Falcon Heavy deposits Prox-1 into space, the P-POD's front door will open, releasing LightSail 2.

LightSail, a Planetary Society solar sail spacecraft

LightSail is a citizen-funded project from The Planetary Society to send a small spacecraft, propelled solely by sunlight, to Earth orbit.

For context, here are two pictures from when LightSail 2 was integrated with Prox-1 last year. Here's the P-POD, with a red zip tie still attached as a failsafe in case the door popped open during transport:

LightSail 2 enclosed within P-POD
LightSail 2 enclosed within P-POD LightSail 2 enclosed in its P-POD.Image: Bruce Betts / The Planetary Society

And here's a picture from just before LightSail 2 was installed. Notice the long spring inside the P-POD:

LightSail 2 and P-POD before integration
LightSail 2 and P-POD before integration LightSail 2 sits next to the P-POD that will carry it into space.Image: Bruce Betts / The Planetary Society

Yesterday, SpaceX and the Air Force released a wide shot of the entire payload stack. The stack contains 24 spacecraft that are riding to orbit as part of the U.S. Air Force's STP-2 mission. In this image, you can't see Prox-1; it's on the back of the payload stack:

STP-2 payload stack
STP-2 payload stack This image shows several of the 24 spacecraft launching on the Air Force's STP-2 mission, which will also carry LightSail 2 to orbit. LightSail 2 and its carrier spacecraft, Prox-1, are not visible in this image.Image: SpaceX

Launch of the Falcon Heavy and LightSail 2 is currently scheduled for no earlier than 24 June 2019, pending the outcome of today's static fire test. For more, see our LightSail 2 mission page and What to Expect When LightSail 2 Launches into Space article.

Sail On, LightSail 2!

Secure LightSail’s place in history by continuing flight operations, sharing our groundbreaking knowledge with NASA and the world, and telling our inspiring story at the Smithsonian.

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