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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

As Deadlines Loom, LightSail Bends but Doesn't Break

Posted by Jason Davis on 2014/10/15 09:49 CDT | 5 comments

The Planetary Society's LightSail-A spacecraft is close to completing a final series of tests that pave the way for a possible 2015 test flight. But as deadlines loom, a new problem has sent the team scrambling to make a quick repair.

Read More »

More LightSail Day-in-the-Life Multimedia, and a Community Image Processing Challenge

Posted by Jason Davis on 2014/09/30 01:07 CDT | 2 comments

We have more multimedia from LightSail's day-in-the-life test, as well as a request for some community image processing help.

Read More »

LightSail Sails through Day-in-the-Life Test

Posted by Jason Davis on 2014/09/24 03:49 CDT | 3 comments

The Planetary Society's LightSail spacecraft passed a major system test in which its solar sails were deployed for the first time in two years.

Read More »

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