LightSail deployment planned for Wednesday

Following the successful resumption of communications with the LightSail spacecraft the mission team are planning to deploy the Solar Sails on Wednesday this week.

They were looking to deploy on Tuesday but to ensure everything is working as needed they added an extra day to the plan.

To ensure they don’t run into another issue with the spacecraft they are also planning a reboot event each day as highlighted by Jason Davis via Twitter

We will post an article once confirmation of Sail deployment which should also include images of the deployment.

LightSail is back

Following a week of silence caused by a software fault on the LightSail spacecraft it started communicating with Earth earlier today.

As the tweet above shows something caused the spacecraft to reboot, at present they don’t know exactly why the reboot happened. The next priority is to attempt two way communication, and also refine it’s orbit to allow better communications.

They will now prioritize the deployment of the Solar Sails in case another issue happens.

UPDATE – LightSail falls silent

Last week the Planetary Society launched the first privately funded Solar Sail spacecraft as a secondary payload on a Atlas V rocket.

During the first couple of days the spacecraft was transmitting data back to Earth during various passes over the ground stations. However the teams have not heard from the spacecraft since, they are now troubleshooting the issue and will either attempt to reboot the spacecraft from the ground or wait for it to automatically reboot.

Once we have further news on the status of the vehicle we will post a further updates.

Latest update from Planetary Society, they believe that the spacecraft has suffered a software glitch and is currently frozen, they have sent multiple reboot commands to the vehicle without success and may need to wait for the spacecraft to reboot itself, unfortunately they don’t know when that will happen because it is triggered by a charged particle hitting the vehicle.

If they are able to re-establish contact they will most likely deploy the sail manually.

 

LightSail in orbit

LS-spacecraftThe first privately built Solar Sail spacecraft LightSail is now in orbit.  Built by the Planetary Society the spacecraft was launched as a secondary payload on the Atlas V that launched earlier today.

The successful deployment of the CubeSat was confirmed by the Societies Jason Davies via Twitter.

Once the antenna’s have deployed they expect contact later today, sometime over the next 2-4 weeks the spacecraft will deploy it’s Mylar Solar Sail which measures 32m², once deployed the light from the Sun will propel it. UPDATE – Confirmation that the antenna’s have deployed

They are already working on the second test spacecraft will is scheduled to deploy from a SpaceX Falcon Heavy in 2016, a Kickstarter is currently running to fund the second mission and is already 300% funded with at least 36 days left.

Below is an artist concept of the fully deployed Sail planned to fly in 2016.

LS-prox-1

Atlas V launches military’s X-37B space plane

Following a smooth countdown today United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V launched the military’s X-37B space plane.  The rocket lifted off from SLC-41 and carried the space plane to orbit before deploying it, the rocket also carried a secondary payload of Cubesat’s including The Planetary Societies LightSail test.  The Planetary Society is currently raising money for the next test spacecraft due to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy next year.

While most of the X-37B’s mission is secret we do have some information on what will be done during the mission

1) Continuation of NASA’s advanced materials investigation – This was flown on the International Space Station a number of times and allowed NASA to test different materials in the vacuum of space to see the impact on those materials.

2) An experimental propulsion system – This ION engine called a Hall thruster will be tested while the vehicle is on orbit.

The last X-37B mission spent 675 days in space before returning to Earth, there is no details on how long this mission will last.

We will publish another article on the LightSail later when we hear news on it’s status and progress.

Below are images of the launch

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