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A spacecraft the size of a loaf of bread has finally turned itself into a solar sail.
On Tuesday (July 23) at about 2:47 p.m. EDT (1847 GMT), a motor onboard the small LightSail 2 cubesat began deploying the mission's 344-square-foot (32-square-meter) solar sail, which is about the size of a boxing ring. LightSail 2 is the passion project of The Planetary Society, and the space advocacy organization wants to demonstrate that solar surfing is a viable propulsion technique for spacecraft.
Milestone - Jennifer - Vaughn - Chief - Officer
"We're very excited to be past this huge milestone," Jennifer Vaughn, Chief Operating Officer at The Planetary Society said during a livestream of the deployment from the spacecraft's control center in California. "We now have a sail. It's time to go sailing! … We now start the very difficult process of sailing in space."
Related: Sailing on Sunbeams: LightSail 2 to Soar Higher Than Space Station
Japan - Aerospace - Exploration - Agency - JAXA
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the first successful solar sail demonstration flight — Ikaros — in May 2010 and dubbed it a "solar yacht." This project, which deployed its sail in June 2010, proved that a thin membrane attached to a spacecraft body could propel the vehicle forward by gathering momentum from the push of the light particles, called photons, emitted by the sun. NASA also launched a small cubesat sail called Nanosail-D in November 2010.
But since then, solar sailing has been stuck in the mud. The Planetary Society's goal for the Lightsail 2 mission was to change that, spending a year orbiting Earth powered by photons.
Indications - LightSail2 - Sail - Deployment - Imagery
"All indications are that #LightSail2 has deployed its solar sail as planned. We will now confirm deployment was successful by downloading imagery," The Planetary Society shared via Twitter. In another tweet that followed shortly...
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