LightSail’s mission is officially a success, according to Planetary Society’s CEO, Bill Nye.
The first solar powered spacecraft successfully re-established all connections to the team back home and after initial failed attempts, it unfurled the solar sails in their full extent.
The 32 square meters solar Mylar sails can even be admired fully extended in a ‘selfie’ beamed back by the cubesat.
The concept that is now behind the attempt to power the first propulsion fueled exclusively by solar power was championed by Carl Sagan. Bill Nye and his wonderful team behind Planetary Society are the ones who brought the theory into practice.
However, their first attempt seemed to pose a number of difficulties since the launch on May 20th in lower Earth orbit of LightSail cubesat.
The few drawback counted a software glitch that terminated for a short period of time the communication between the team back home and the box-like satellite.
The satellite was launched on May 20 in Cape Canaveral, carefully tucked aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
A system reboot efficiently brought back the communication between the Earth based team and LightSail. The satellite then suffered signal losses twice.
And the most important component of the mission, the unfurling of the solar sails or Mylar sails stubbornly kept refusing to develop. Initially, the setback was due to an unplanned battery glitch.
Nonetheless, June 7th saw the successful extension of the Mylar sails.
Following, LightSail sent back one image on June 8th, when it was placed between the Earth and the sun. The Planetary Society expects that soon another image will be beamed back and this time it will include a view of Earth due LightSail’s orbit.
This short travel is only the preparation for what the Bill Nye’s team is planning for next year. A better technology, a new flight and a higher orbit based on a lessons learned approach and once more, nothing but solar energy for propulsion.
To this extent, LightSail is crucial in understanding altitude control and Mylar sail deployment. Solar sails are deemed to be a cheap and efficient way for harnessing solar photons in order to propel the lightweight satellite into achieving new milestones in space exploration.
For those wishing to keep in touch with the Planetary Society’s high-aiming goals, a Kickstarter campaign is still running online.
Also, the Planetary Society team announced that a telepresser will be hosted online on Wednesday to discuss LightSail’s mission and achievements.
Image Source: NewYorkTimes