Tags: lightsail | launch | solar-powered | space | glider

LightSail Launch in 2016 to Test Solar-Powered Space Glider

Friday, 11 Jul 2014 09:32 AM

A solar sail-powered spacecraft called a LightSail will be launched into orbit by the Planetary Society, courtesy of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch in 2016 with a mission to see if the sun could provide enough energy to propel a spacecraft.

The project, funded by the Planetary Society, will be riding to orbit inside a larger craft, built by Georgia Tech, called Prox-1. After it releases the LightSail, the Prox-1 will fly  around the craft to take pictures and other readings without having to be steered from the ground, according to the Waco Tribune.

With the sun and other sources of light to propel it, researchers hope the LightSail could take spacecraft to the farther reaches of space without needing to worry about its source of energy.

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"That means you don't need rocket fuel to propel the craft, which would add to its weight – which in turn would mean you need more fuel, which adds more weight, and so on," wrote Joseph Abbott of the Waco Tribune. "A light sail thus potentially means you can send spacecraft to the outer reaches of the solar system – and beyond – for much cheaper than if you had to use rockets for the trip."

"Nor is the sun the only potential light source for such a sail – a laser (based, say, on a Kupier Belt or Oort Cloud worldlet) can be used to push the craft onward from the solar system when the sun is too distant to provide power," Abbott continued.

Bill Nye, of the television show "Bill Nye The Science Guy" and Planetary Society chief executive officer, said in a statement that he is looking forward to seeing how the LightSail performs in space.

"It's fantastic that at last we have a launch date for this pioneering mission," Nye said. "When I was in engineering school, I read the book about solar sailing by my predecessor, society co-founder Louis Friedman. But the dream of sailing on light alone goes back much further."

The Planetary Society said a LightSail test flight may precede the SpaceX launch in 2015 but that spacecraft will only reach low earth orbit, but it will allow researchers to double check vital systems in a space environment.

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A solar sail-powered spacecraft called a LightSail will be launched into orbit by the Planetary Society, courtesy of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch in 2016 with a mission to see if the sun could provide enough energy to propel a spacecraft.
lightsail, launch, solar-powered, space, glider
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2014-32-11
Friday, 11 Jul 2014 09:32 AM
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