The slight push of daylight is slowly altering the orbit of the Planetary Society’s crowd-funded LightSail 2 satellite after it unfolded a thin solar sail the size of a boxing ring last week, officers confirmed on Wednesday.
LightSail 2 is the capstone of a year-long, $7 million effort to advance the science of solar sailing, a way that might permit small probes to travel throughout the solar system, or to different stars, at faster speeds and lower cost.
“On behalf of the tens of 1000’s of individuals all over the world who got here together to help the dream of solar sailing move ahead, we’re thrilled to declare mission success for LightSail 2,” mentioned Bruce Betts, the LightSail program supervisor at the Planetary Society, a non-profit space advocacy group headquartered in Pasadena, California.
LightSail 2 was certainly one of 24 satellites launched June 25 by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. During the launch, LightSail 2 was covered inside a bigger spacecraft named Prox 1, which launched the solar sail craft a week into the mission.
Based on a CubeSat platform, LightSail 2 was about the size of a lump of bread when folded up for launch. A few days after separating from Prox 1, LightSail deployed solar panels to start recharging the craft’s lithium-ion batteries, then officers sent the command to open the sail July 23, somewhat later than originally planned to permit extra time for engineers to fine-tune the CubeSat’s attitude control system.