LightSail 2 Spacecraft Demonstrates Successful Flight by Sunlight

 Image credit: The Planetary Society

LightSail 2 during sail deployment sequence. Image credit: The Planetary Society

Spaceflight powered by the pressure of sunlight has been a stock idea in science fiction for at least 60 years — a practical use has finally been demonstrated! The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 spacecraft, which was a crowd-funded CubeSat, launched to low-Earth orbit on June 19 on a Falcon Heavy rocket. LightSail 2 was designed to verify that the small pressure of sunlight could be used to steer and position small spacecraft. Last week, LightSail 2 unfurled its silver solar sail and caught its first sunlight. After a few tweaks, sunlight into its sail has raised its orbital high point, or apogee, by about 2 kilometers. The mission team confirmed the apogee increase can only be attributed to solar sailing, meaning LightSail 2 has successfully completed its primary goal of demonstrating flight by light for CubeSats. READ MORE