The LightSail-2 solar sail is still operational. The great success of the innovative drive

The Planetary Society informs you that it is a one-of-a-kind mission an innovative satellite powered by the rays of the sun is going well. The spacecraft is currently orbiting approximately 687 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, where a residual atmosphere causes friction.

This friction would normally slow the satellite down and make it sink towards Earth, but the power of the sail, or the sun’s rays, makes up for it. The probe initially managed to lift its orbit using the sun sail alone. Now he is slowly losing the battle with the atmosphere, but this process is much slower than without a sail.

LightSail 2 consists of four small sails made of a material called Mylar. Together, they have an area of ​​32 square meters. The sail does not have a traditional drive, it travels in the Earth’s orbit, pushed by photons from our day star.

The Planetary Society wanted the device to fly around our planet. This maneuver was successful a long time ago, so we can talk about a real revolution in small space installation missions. The lack of the need to install a drive in microsatellites will not only drastically reduce the costs of space missions, but also accelerate the construction of devices and extend their operation in orbit.

The plans to use such a drive in spacecraft they appeared in the 1930s, but back then it was pure science fiction. The Planetary Society tested the first LightSail-1 prototype in 2015. It was not without problems then, but eventually the device entered the atmosphere as planned and burned down over the South Atlantic.

Scientists collected valuable data that allowed them to build a new prototype. Now an association made in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman, is conducting another experiment. This time the sail is more advanced. The $ 7 million paid donor mission was launched on June 25, 2019. The device flew into orbit aboard the rocket Falcon Heavy by SpaceX as part of the STP-2 mission for the U.S. Department of Defense.

The success of the LightSail-2 project made the NASA intends to use this type of propulsion in its future missions, namely: NEA Scout, Solar Cruiser and ASC3. Interestingly, NEA Scout will take part in the Artemis-1 program. The vehicle will use solar propulsion technology to exit the moon’s orbit and visit a near-Earth asteroid.


About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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