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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 / 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 Completes Testing, Announcement Expected in January

Posted by Jason Davis on 2014/12/12 10:19 CST | 1 comment

The Planetary Society's LightSail spacecraft successfully completed testing to prepare it for a possible 2015 test flight.

Read More »

LightSail Gets Burn Wire Redesign for Round 2 of Vibration Tests

Posted by Jason Davis on 2014/11/13 04:51 CST | 7 comments

The Planetary Society's LightSail-A spacecraft is less than three weeks away from an expected go/no-go decision on whether the CubeSat will be launched into space for a shakedown cruise next year.

Read More »

LightSail Vibration Test Shakes Loose New Problems

Posted by Jason Davis on 2014/10/30 02:56 CDT | 2 comments

LightSail's random vibration test, meant to simulate the stress of an Atlas V rocket launch, shook loose new problems that the team will have to address.

Read More »

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