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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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Josh Spradling

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

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.

Bill Nye, Planetary Society Staff Listen to LightSail 2 Signal

Jason Davis • September 19, 2019

When LightSail 2 recently flew south of The Planetary Society's headquarters, CEO Bill Nye and other staff members stepped outside to listen.

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