LightSail 2 Sends Back 1st Signals from Its Solar-Surfing Test Flight


Artist’s concept of LightSail 2 above Earth. (Image: © Josh Spradling/The Planetary Society)

The little craft launched atop SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket late last month.

By Doris Elin Salazar | SPACE.com

The roughly 11-lb. (5 kilograms) cubesat is designed to prove that solar sailing is a feasible way of keeping satellites moving. Fuel is a costly and heavy commodity, and if LightSail 2 can prove that the solar-powered technique works well, perhaps future missions into the deep reaches of the solar system and beyond can be propelled by photons, or particles of light released by the sun.

The project launched into space last week (June 25) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy megarocket. On Tuesday (July 2), the bread-loaf-size LightSail 2 experiment left Prox-1, its carrier vehicle. LightSail 2 will ultimately open up its ultrathin four-panel sail to achieve a surface area about the size of a boxing ring.

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