On June 25 th, 2019, The Planetary Society‘s cubesat spacecraft called LightSail 2 took off from the NASA Kennedy Area Center in Florida aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket. This was the 2nd solar sail introduced the Society, the very first ( LightSail 1) having actually been sent out into area in2015 Like its predecessor, the function of this spacecraft is to show the innovation that would permit solar sails running within Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Considering that reaching orbit, the LightSail 2 has actually been suggested that it remains in excellent working order, as suggested by the Objective Control Control Panel just recently presented by The Planetary Society. In addition to developing two-way interactions with objective controllers and passing a battery of checkouts, the spacecraft likewise took its very first photos of Earth(and some selfies for excellent procedure).

LightSail 2 is the 3rd effort to send out a light sail spacecraft into orbit by the international non-profit society, which is committed to promoting area expedition and the innovations that allow it. The very first was Universe 1, a bigger lightsail that introduced in 2005, however which stopped working to reach its designated orbit due to an unexpected failure with the rocket.

Their next effort, LightSail 1, was introduced on Might 20 th, 2015, atop a United Release Alliance(ULA) Atlas V rocket. This innovation demonstrator handled to make it to orbit, however a series of software application breakdown 2 days into the objective triggered the landing crew to lose interactions with the spacecraft, along with avoiding the sail from releasing from the cubesat that was bring it.

Over the next couple of days, interactions were restored and lost numerous times, and the sail lastly released on June 7th. By June 14 th, after stating the test flight a success, the spacecraft reentered and burned up in Earth’s environment. This newest launch is for that reason implied to develop on the successes and gain from the failures of the past.

Quickly after the launch, well known science communicator Expense Nye tweeted about the objective’s success and shared a video. In it, Nye restated The Planetary Society’s function and thanked the general public for assisting to make the objective possible:

” SpaceX Falcon Heavy took our LightSail [up] and [to] orbit, thanks to you. Thank you all a lot. We are advancing area science and expedition, we are equalizing area, we are innovating, we are working the response to the 2 deep concerns: where do we originate from and are we alone? All due to the fact that of you. So thank you.”

LightSail 2 caught this image of Earth’s limb on 6 July 2019 at 04: 41 UTC from an electronic camera installed on its dual-sided photovoltaic panels. Credit: The Planetary Society

Considering that reaching orbit, the Planetary Society has actually been offering routine updates on the objective. The general public is likewise motivated to get status reports from the spacecraft in near-real-time utilizing the LightSail 2 Objective Control control panel that just recently went live. Updates are sent from the craft every couple of seconds through a 334- line text file consisting of health and status info.

This consisting of temperature levels, battery levels, spacecraft rotation rates, and the status of the sail. This information is then evaluated by the group and showed on the control panel, the whole archive of which is readily available for download. On the night of Friday, June 5th, the objective controllers reported that the CubeSat’s dual-sided photovoltaic panels had actually effectively been released.

Quickly afterwards, LightSail 2‘s solar panel-mounted video cameras took the spacecraft’s very first photos of Earth. These revealed a lit up crescent as the spacecraft headed into orbital sundown. In the 2nd photo, pieces of the fishing line-like product ( spectraline) utilized to hold the photovoltaic panels closed can be seen wandering away from the spacecraft.

Since the writing of this post, the control panel shows that the spacecraft’s lightSail— which is arranged to release today (June 9th) at the earliest– is still stowed. And with 7 days and 10 hours having actually expired considering that the objective reached orbit, LightSail 2 is currently the longest-running objective introduced by The Planetary Society.

Make certain to have a look at the control panel for updates, and make certain to have a look at this advertising video of the LightSail 2 objective (thanks to The Planetary Society):

More Reading: The Planetary Society, LightSail 2 Objective Control