Stunning images of Earth captured by LightSail 2, a tiny spacecraft is presently in orbit. The high-resolution pictures were transmitted back to Earth using excess bandwidth. Launched on 25 June 2019, LightSail 2 spacecraft aims to become the first spacecraft in Earth’s orbit powered exclusively by sunlight.
We launched the first solar sailing satellite of the world in 2005, Cosmos 1, which was lost due to a rocket failure. Ten years ago, in 2015, a test flight was successfully finished by our LightSail 1 spacecraft. A SpaceX Falcon Heavy launched LightSail 2 as part of the United States on June 25, 2019. Air Force’s Kennedy Space Center STP-2 mission in Florida. LightSail 2 was included in Prox-1 during the launch
LightSail 2, The Planetary Society’s brainchild, has given us two beautiful new images of Earth. At about 720 km, the tiny spacecraft is presently in orbit, and the LightSail 2 mission team some time on or after Sunday, July 21, puts it through its paces in preparing for solar sail deployment.
LightSail 2 is a modular CubeSat that measures 10 × 10 × 30 cm. Once deployed, the solar sails will measure 32 square meters (340 square ft). The spacecraft was intended to assess the capacity of a solar sail to increase and decrease the orbit of a satellite. The spacecraft is currently being tested and analysed before its sails are deployed.
A software patch linked to the stability system of LightSail 2 has recently been uploaded by flight controllers. The patch “refined the operation of the electromagnetic torque wheels of the spacecraft, which are responsible for maintaining LightSail 2 stable as it circles the Earth,” according to The Planetary Society.
We also have two new images from LightSail 2. As the satellite passed over ground stations, the high-resolution pictures were transmitted using excess bandwidth.
On July 12, 2019, LightSail 2 captured this image of Mexico. The image is looking east across Mexico. The Baja Peninsula tip is on the left and Tropical Storm Barry is on the far right.
The satellite’s attitude control system was also tested by the flight controllers. For an entire orbit, they placed the system in solar sailing mode. Some of the telemetry from that orbit is collected, and some are in real-time.
Controllers will evaluate all the information before the sail system is deployed, to see how the spacecraft performed in solar sailing mode.
LightSail 2 has sensors that monitor the Sun’s position while sailing. Recently, the mission team has been evaluating software updates to that sensor system. They used the engineering clone of LightSail 2 at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo -called BenchSat -to do this.
Now that the Sun-tracking software has been updated, the satellite will be placed back in solar sailing mode to check the outcome of the update.
On July 7th, LightSail 2 captured this Earth picture. It looks toward Central America at the Caribbean Sea, with north roughly at the top. You can see the blue-green colour of the ocean around the Bahamas at the 1:00 position of the picture. In the bottom right, a lens flare is visible.
So far, it’s all good for LightSail 2. The Planetary Society claims the orbit of the satellite is safe and stable. Before the solar sail system is deployed, operators want to be confident that the attitude control system is working properly. This is because the atmospheric drag on the deployed sail limits the period during which the orbit of LightSail 2 can be elevated.
LightSail 2 is a three-nanosatellite composite spacecraft. Two of them are handling solar sails, and one is handling electronics. There are four triangular sails in the sail system that are deployed into a square. It was launched on June 25, 2019.
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LightSail 2 is LightSail 1’s successor. They were both crowd-funded by The Planetary Society, a non-profit group recognized for its creative approach to advancing space technologies. Overall, it cost US$ 7 million for the entire LightSail project. This involves both spacecraft from LightSail and their predecessor Cosmos 1.
On 6 July 2019 at 04:41 UTC, LightSail 2 captured this image of Earth’s limb from a camera mounted on its dual-sided solar panels.
Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are well-known members of the society. The Board and Advisory Council are populated by experienced professional scientists and it shows the results of the society.
The Planetary Society’s role in space is important and tangible. Their vision is to “Know the cosmos and our place within it.” Their mission statement is to “Empower the world’s citizens to advance space science and exploration.”