The Planetary Society is making advancements in the field of space exploration. Its solar sailing project, LightSail 2, was sent on Earth’s orbit to demonstrate solar sailing on June 25th, 2019 by the Prox-1 carrier satellite. Since then, the spacecraft has been on the low-Earth orbit using only sun’s photons to navigate in space, without any other power systems.
Taking into consideration the size of the core, 10 cm x 10 cm x 30 cm (3.9 in x 3.9 in x 11.8 in), there was no space for any power system. The sails, which capture the photons to orient itself in space, measure 32 square meters (340 square feet) when deployed and are made of a material called Mylar.
Costs and funding
It is worth mentioning that the precursor of LightSail 2 was LightSail 1, which was only created to test the sail deployment method in space. The project cost $7 million over ten years.
Over 40,000 individual donors have donated the money for the project. The costs launching both spaceships had been supported by NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites program and by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s University Nanosat Program.
The achievements of LightSail 2
Since it was set on low-Earth orbit, the satellite has successfully raised in orbit by more than 1.7 kilometers. The first one to talk about solar sailing was the German astronomer Keplar who lived in the 1600s and theorized about how sails and ships could be built to adjust to heavenly breezes.
This new method of propulsion that used sunlight to travel is something that must not be overlooked in future missions into space. This method is an innovation as it does not necessitate expensive rockets and fuel to send a spacecraft into space. The Planetary Society gave space agencies a technique which is inexpensive and can help in the deep space exploration missions.