The Planetary Society has launched some time ago the LightSail 2 project with the specific purpose of demonstrating controlled solar sailing on low Earth orbit. Ever since its launch, LightSail 2 orbited our planet capturing images of the ‘Blue Planet.’ A few days ago LightSail 2 successfully deployed its solar panels and began its mission.
‘We’re thrilled to declare mission success for LightSail 2’
A few days ago, the team of researchers noticed that the orbit of the spacecraft has risen with more than 1.7 km (a mile) despite the fact that it does not have any types of propulsion devices. The only explanation would be the solar light and solar sailing. The photons from the sun put pressure on the sails and, while quite small, it is enough to cause the spacecraft to accelerate and increase its point on the orbit.
Of course, this could not be possible without the help of researchers on Earth that must spin LightSail 2 90 degrees almost every hour. The precursor of LightSail 2 was LightSail 1 was launched on Earth’s orbit, but it was more a mission to determine if the technology it employed could function.
LightSail 2 is Planetary Society’s first genuine solar sailing success
Other solar sails experiments were conducted by the Planetary Society, but most of them failed. LightSail 2 is the first one to have such success. There are other missions planned, with better abilities than the second LightSail that are expected to have even more better results.
The Planetary Society’s aim was to make a breakthrough in the science of solar sailing which could permit space vehicles to cruise our Solar System at higher speeds and smaller costs than other missions. LightSail 2 was the first to successfully do that, but it still has small dimensions. In the future, bigger spacecraft could be manufactured that would be able to carry on their back more advanced technologies and go even further into space with nothing but sunlight as a propulsion system.