Tag Archives: Planetary Society

LightSail 2 released from cubesat; establishes contact

The Planetary Society’s LightSail-2 technology demonstration satellite was released from its carrier vehicle today and successfully established communications with the ground.

The CubeSat, about the size of a loaf of bread, was scheduled to leave Prox-1 precisely 7 days after both spacecraft successfully flew to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Following deployment from its spring-loaded enclosure known as a P-POD, LightSail 2 deployed its radio antenna and began transmitting health and status data, as well as a morse code beacon indicating its call sign. The mission team received LightSail 2’s first signals on 2 July at 01:34 PDT (08:34 UTC), as the spacecraft passed over Cal Poly.

…The team will spend about a week checking out LightSail 2’s systems, exercising the spacecraft’s momentum wheel, and taking camera test images before and after deployment of the CubeSat’s dual-sided solar panels. Following the successful completion of these tests, the team will deploy the 32-square-meter solar sail, about the size of a boxing ring. A time for the solar sail deployment attempt will be announced later.

If they successfully deploy the solar sail and use it to maneuver in space, it will the second time the Planetary Society has done it, having deployed LightSail-1 in 2015. That mission has some communications problems, but eventually succeeded in its main engineering mission by testing the sail deployment system.

LightSail-2 will also be the third time a light sail has been flown in space, with the first, Ikaros, deployed by the Japanese in 2010 and flown in solar orbit through 2012. That mission was successful in using sunlight to accelerate the sail.

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LightSail deploys its solar sails

Though full confirmation will not come until later tonight, telemetry from LightSail suggests that its solar sails have successfully begun deployment.

Telemetry received on the ground showed motor counts climbing to the halfway point before LightSail traveled out of range. Power levels were consistent with ground-based deployment tests, and the spacecraft’s cameras were on. “All indications are that the solar sail deployment was proceeding nominally,” wrote mission manager David Spencer in an email update.

They will have to wait until the cubesat comes back in range at 2:46 am (Eastern) to see if the deployment completed successfully, as well as download images.

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LightSail back in business?

The Planetary Society’s solar sail engineering test called LightSail has re-established communications with the ground, allowing for the possibility that it can finally achieve its solar sail deployment, the main purpose of the mission.

I had previously reported that the sails had deployed, but a commenter correctly noted that only the panels have deployed, not the sails themselves, which need full battery power. The communications problem has been related to a battery charging problem. They are hoping that the batteries will get charged by mid-day today when they will try to deploy the sails.

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LightSail deploys, then falls silent again

Though it appears that LightSail has successfully deployed its solar sail — the main objective of this engineering flight, the Planetary Society cubesat ceased communications shortly thereafter.

To confirm the success of the mission they need to re-establish communications, which they hope will happen when the spacecraft’s orbit exposes it to more sunlight and the battery gets charged.

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LightSail deployment scheduled for Tuesday

Assuming all goes well with the orbital preparations today, LightSail will perform its test deployment on Tuesday at 11:44 am.

If successful, this deployment will achieve several significant engineering firsts, the most important of which will be to have demonstrated that a cubesat can be used for such a task. Proving that fact will increase their commercial usefulness for future space endeavors.

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LightSail reboots and restores communications

The Planetary Society’s solar sail engineering cubesat test LightSail has rebooted its computers and re-established communications with Earth.

The mission’s primary mission is to test the engineering design of the deployment of the solar sail. They will now be able to proceed with this deployment.

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Solar sail experiment stymied by software crash

The Planetary Society’s LightSail solar sail test mission, launched as a secondary payload on last week’s Atlas 5 X-37B launch, has fallen silent because of a software problem.

The communications problem occurred before the mission could achieve its main engineering goal of testing the deployment of the solar sail. They still hope to regain communications, but time is limited as the cubesat is in a low orbit that will decade relatively quickly.

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