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LightSail

Flight by light for CubeSats

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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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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

Here's What We've Learned So Far from LightSail 2

Jason Davis • January 10, 2020

A new paper recaps mission events, discusses solar sail performance, and describes how the spacecraft's orbit has changed.

Planetary Society Talks Europa, Planetary Defense, and Solar Sailing in Washington D.C.

Jason Davis • November 01, 2019

Thanks to our members and donors, The Planetary Society participated in several activities at the 2019 International Astronautical Conference.

“I Talk to It Every Day”: Students are Vital Members of LightSail 2 Team

Jason Davis • October 17, 2019

More than 50,000 people supported LightSail 2. But only one person can talk to the spacecraft at a time, and it's often a student.

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