Jason DavisJul 05, 2019

See the Latest Data from LightSail 2 on Our New Mission Control Dashboard

Would you like to see the latest data from The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft—possibly before flight controllers have even seen it? Now you can!

Today we're releasing a LightSail 2 mission control dashboard that displays our most up-to-date information from LightSail 2. Every few seconds, the spacecraft transmits what amounts to a 334-line text file filled with health and status information, including temperatures, battery levels, and spacecraft rotation rates. LightSail 2 ground stations capture that data and feed it to a central repository, where it can be analyzed by the team. Our new dashboard displays information from that repository and makes the entire archive available for download. 

You can also see where the spacecraft is now, and find out when it will be flying over your location! 

Here's a brief guide to the data displayed on the dashboard.

Last data received: This is the time we last received telemetry from the spacecraft. Don't worry if it's been hours, or even a day since this value changed—LightSail 2 is only in range of its ground stations at certain times, and depending on what it's doing, we may not receive fresh telemetry during a pass.

Elapsed mission time: This is the time since LightSail 2 was deployed from Prox-1.

Sail status: This shows whether the solar sail is stowed or deployed.

Battery charge: This is the average charge of LightSail 2's eight, 4.2-volt batteries. 

Internal temperature: This number, which can be toggled between Fahrenheit and Celsius, comes from a sensor on LightSail 2's payload board inside the spacecraft. The temperature there stays relatively warm because of heat from the spacecraft's electronics.

Rotation rates: This shows how fast LightSail 2 is rotating on all three of its axes (see here for diagrams with those axes labeled). 

Attitude control mode: LightSail 2 has 3 attitude control modes. You can use these to get context on the spacecraft's current rotation rates.

  • Detumble: The spacecraft is attempting to cancel out any rotation about its three axes and “hold still” as it orbits.
  • Z-axis alignment: LightSail 2 is pointing its Z-axis along Earth's magnetic field, which will generally orient the spacecraft’s antenna for optimal communications.
  • Solar sailing: The spacecraft is attempting to raise its orbit using the solar sail. To do this, it must make two 90-degree turns each orbit. When flying towards the Sun, the sail orients itself edge-on, effectively turning off the thrust. When flying away from the Sun, the sail turns broadside to the Sun's rays and gets a slight push.

If these data points aren't enough, check out our advanced data section. We provide voltage levels for each individual battery, more temperature readings, and you can even see the net current flowing into or out of each battery. At any given time, LightSail 2's batteries may be receiving power from the solar panels, feeding power to the spacecraft systems, or both. If a battery's current is positive, the battery is charging; if the current is negative, the battery is discharging.

Still not satisfied? You can download the entire archive of LightSail 2's telemetry by clicking "Download Recent Data." 

The mission control dashboard also features a map showing where the spacecraft is in real time. A small box in the upper left corner shows LightSail 2's current latitude, longitude, altitude in kilometers, and speed in kilometers per second. 

Beneath the map, we provide estimates on when the spacecraft will be visible, based on your browser's reported location. Note that you won't be able to see LightSail 2 until its sails are deployed, and even then, seeing conditions will vary based on how the sail is angled at any particular time. Your best chances of seeing the spacecraft will be during dusk and dawn passes. 

Start horizon: The location and time where LightSail 2 will rise above your horizon.

Max elevation: The location and time where LightSail 2 will be highest during the pass. The higher the max elevation, the better; 90 degrees means it will travel directly overhead.

End horizon: The location and time where LightSail 2 will disappear below your horizon.

Total duration: The total duration of the pass.

For more information on seeing and tracking LightSail 2, visit the see and track section of our mission page.

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