The Planetary Society goes to launch their LightSail 2 CubeSat subsequent month. LightSail 2 is a take a look at mission designed to check the feasibility of utilizing daylight for propulsion. The small satellite tv for pc will use the stress of daylight on its photo voltaic sails to propel its solution to the next orbit.
The launch is scheduled for lift-off on June 22nd from Kennedy Area Heart, Florida. The small, 5 kg (11 lb.) spacecraft is a component of a bigger total endeavour, the Division of Protection’s Area Check Program-2 (STP-2) mission, which might be launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket.
STP-2 is sending 24 spacecraft to 3 totally different orbits. The LightSail 2 CubeSat might be enclosed inside Prox-1, a Georgia Tech mission. After seven days in orbit, Prox-1 will deploy LightSail 2 at an altitude of 720 km (447 miles) the place the pressure from the daylight will overcome the atmospheric drag.
As soon as deployed, LightSail 2 will take a couple of days to carry out well being and standing checks, then it’ll deploy its photo voltaic panels. A couple of day after that, it’ll unfurl its 4 mylar sails. The 4 sails are in regards to the dimension of a boxing ring.
An artist’s illustration of the Prox-1 satellite tv for pc deploying the LightSail2. After seven days onboard Prox-1, LightSail 2 might be deployed and it’ll unfurl its photo voltaic sails. Picture Credit score:
Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society
LightSail 2 will depend on what’s known as photo voltaic radiation stress for propulsion. Photons from the Solar will push on the sails and produce a tiny quantity of acceleration. Finally, the stress from all these photons will elevate the spacecraft’s orbit. The pressure is miniscule, solely in regards to the weight of a paperclip. However over time, for a couple of month after sail deployment, this pressure will elevate LightSail 2’s by a “measurable quantity” based on the Planetary Society.
The Solar exerts radiation stress on all objects, particularly within the interior Photo voltaic System. Johannes Kepler conceived of the concept approach again in 1619 to elucidate why comet tails at all times face away from the Solar, irrespective of the path of journey. With out accounting for it in mission planning, it will probably ship spacecraft off beam. The Viking spacecraft, for instance, would have missed Mars by about 15,000 km (9,300 mi) if radiation stress hadn’t been taken into consideration.
LightSail 2 is designed to check the feasibility of photo voltaic sail propulsion for the favored CubeSat sort of satellite tv for pc. A CubeSat is a small sort of satellite tv for pc rising reputation attributable to its small dimension and low price. They’re generally used for analysis functions.
The Planetary Society has been engaged on Gentle Sail spacecraft for fairly a couple of years now. Again in 2015 they launched LightSail 1, a satellite tv for pc nearly an identical to LightSail 2. LightSail 1 had some setbacks early in its mission, however was a profitable take a look at of the sail deployment system that each satellites use.
LightSail 1 took this selfie with its photo voltaic sails deployed in June 2015. Picture Credit score: The Planetary Society.
And earlier than LightSail 1, there was Cosmo 1. Cosmo1 was launched in 2005, however was unsuccessful attributable to a failure of the Russian rocket it was launched with. On an fascinating facet word, Cosmo 1 was launched on a rocket from a Russian submarine, as a part of an effort to seek out peaceable makes use of for ICBMs.
The Photo voltaic Sail concept has been round for many years now, and the Planetary Society has been championing the concept. Again within the 1970s, Planetary Society co-founder Louis Friedman led an effort for NASA that seemed into sending a photo voltaic sail spacecraft to rendezvous with Halley’s Comet.
An illustration of the Halley’s Comet Photo voltaic Sail Undertaking. The drawing exhibits a photo voltaic sail 850 metres sq.. Picture Credit score: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Ken Hodges
Carl Sagan, the good cat within the historical past of science, was additionally a co-founder of the Planetary Society. He went on the Tonight Present with Johnny Carson and confirmed off a mannequin of a photo voltaic sail spacecraft. You may watch the clip under, with bonus commentary from Invoice Nye, one other Planetary Society member.
The LightSail 2 was developed with funds largely from personal donors. The Society is simply that, a charitable society, and their funding comes from their members. They are saying that the LightSail 2 mission is already informing future photo voltaic sail work. The primary Area Launch System (SLS) flight to the Moon will carry NASA’s NEA (Close to-Earth Asteroid) Scout spacecraft, and a photo voltaic sail will carry it to an asteroid close to Earth. The Planetary Society has a Area Act Settlement in place with NASA which means they share mission knowledge.
An illustration of NASA’s NEA spacecraft utilizing its photo voltaic sail to method a near-Earth asteroid. Picture Credit score: NASA