AAE professor to lead next step in solar sailing; LightSail2 launches on Falcon Heavy
A small satellite that will attempt the first controlled solar sailing in Earth orbit successfully launched on SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket June 24.
AAE professor David Spencer is the lead for LightSail 2, part of a payload that was launched in the early-morning hours. The citizen-funded project from The Planetary Society was part of the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program-2 payload. The launch was attended by Spencer and two AAE students, Justin Mansell and Stephen Grabowski.
Solar sailing uses reflective sails to harness the momentum of sunlight for propulsion.
“While there have been several previous solar sail deployment demonstration missions, if all goes as planned LightSail 2 will become the first spacecraft to increase its orbital energy through controlling the sail orientation relative to the sun,” said Spencer, project manager for LightSail 2.
According to The Planetary Society, LightSail 2 team members will converge at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California, where the spacecraft’s mission control is located. Once LightSail 2 is released from Prox-1, the team will check out the CubeSat’s systems before commanding its dual-sided solar panels to deploy.
Initial contact from LightSail 2 was made at 4:34 a.m. July 2. Solar sail deployment is now nominally scheduled for approximately 7:20 p.m. on July 7, Mansell said.