This image was taken during the LightSail 2 sail deployment sequence on July 23. Baja California and Mexico are visible in the background. This image has been de-distorted and color corrected. (Planetary Society Photo / CC BY-NC 3.0)
It may be “mission accomplished” for the Planetary Society’s solar sail experiment, but its privately funded LightSail 2 mission is far from over.
Five weeks after LightSail 2’s launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, the nonprofit membership society celebrated the spacecraft’s ability to raise its orbit by a little more than a mile (1.7 kilometers), using the force of sunlight pressing against its 18.4-foot-wide, 4.5-micron-thick reflective Mylar sails.
Demonstrating solar sail steerability was the point of the decade-long campaign to build and fly LightSail 2 and its predecessor, LightSail 1. The project’s estimated $7 million cost was covered by contributions from Planetary Society members and other donors.
“On behalf of the tens of thousands of people around the world who came together to help the dream of solar sailing move forward, we’re thrilled to declare mission success for LightSail 2,” Planetary Society chief scientist Bruce Betts, who serves as program manager for LightSail, told journalists today at a teleconference.
The sail ...