LightSail is finally in the Earth’s orbit, marking the first successful attempt for fuel-less propulsion of a spacecraft.
The TV ‘science guy’, founder and CEO of Planetary Society, Bill Nye announced on his Twitter account that LightSail has finally began its journey. The concept behind the cubesat was first brought to the limelight by Carl Sagan.
Picking up on the idea, Bill Nye and the team at Planetary Society set about creating LightSail, a small satellite powered by solar energy due to its 32 square meters Mylar sails.
It is easy to understand how this is fantastically good news for the team and for the scientific community in general as previously, LightSail suffered a few drawbacks.
The first launching of the prototype cubesat went about on May 20th. Immediately after launching, the small satellite cut off all communication with the team due to a software glitch. Patiently awaiting for a system reboot, the Planetary Society team saw communication restored after a system reboot.
The second issue that the cubesat was experiencing, was the unveiling of the Mylar sails that were supposed to be the focus of this experiment. The actual unfurling of the sails took place yesterday to the content of the Planetary Society team.
Now, as everything seems to be going according to plan, images from the LightSail are expected to come in soon.
The Mylar sails are also known as solar sails. These offer the great advantage of harnessing the power generated by the sun-streamed photons to propel the cubesat at very low cost.
Technologically at the least, this pinpoints the promise of fuel-free, sustainable and efficient propulsion systems that could be implemented in all small-size spacecrafts sent to the Earth’s orbit. Or as far as they can harness solar energy.
Still a prototype, LightSail is expected to prove satisfying results in connection to altitude control or sail-deployment systems as the technology is fairly new and certainly untested before. If this mission proves successful, another LightSail spacecraft is in the pipeline for further improvements and testing.
The tech challenge that the Planetary Society took on is bound to pave the way for technological advancements in spacecraft propulsion.
Bill Nye wants to crowdfund LightSail and his Kickstarter campaign already reached 800,000 dollars in funding over a period of just two months.
17 more days and a donation and any space travel and science afficionado that wishes to fund the project will be able to say they set a stepping stone for this technology.
Image Source: Kickstarter