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Flight by light for CubeSats



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 / The Planetary Society

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

LightSail Gets Backup Burn Wire for 2016 Mission

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/09/25 04:30 CDT | 1 comment

LightSail's burn wire, the mission-critical component responsible for releasing the spacecraft's solar panels, will get a backup ahead of next year's solar sailing mission.

Read More »

How to Download Weather Satellite Images from Space

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/09/21 10:46 CDT | 2 comments

For less than $50, you can download images from NOAA satellites using your laptop and a small radio antenna.

Read More »

A Kilometer Per Day: LightSail Mission Managers Refine Orbit-Raising Plan

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/09/04 04:04 CDT | 6 comments

LightSail will spiral away from Earth by about one kilometer per day, according to the latest orbital estimates by Georgia Tech's Space Systems Design Laboratory.

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