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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

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

Jason Davis • September 04, 2015 • 6

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.

LightSail Lands New Hardware for Laser Ranging

Jason Davis • August 18, 2015 • 2

A cluster of small mirrors will be added to LightSail's aft hull to allow engineers to precisely track its position as it sails around the planet next year.

LightSail Nominated for SmallSat Mission of the Year

Jason Davis • August 11, 2015 • 2

The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft has been nominated for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Small Satellite Technical Committee Mission of the Year 2015 award.

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