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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. 

Replay the live announcement

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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

First Look: Newest LightSail Spacecraft Unfurls Solar Sails

Jason Davis • January 29, 2016 • 3

The Planetary Society's LightSail spacecraft successfully deployed its solar sails Thursday, wrapping up an initial round of system-level tests to prepare the CubeSat for flight.

Upgraded LightSail Software Completes First Round of Flight Testing

Jason Davis • January 26, 2016 • 2

LightSail has completed its first round of flight testing. The spacecraft is now armed with new software that will transmit almost three times as much health and status data back to Earth than it did during last year's test flight.

LightSail Program Wraps Busy Year with Test Readiness Review

Jason Davis • December 17, 2015

On Monday, LightSail engineers and mission managers met at The Planetary Society's Pasadena, California headquarters to prepare for a rigorous suite of spacecraft tests that are expected to begin in January.

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