Planetary Society's solar sail appears to deploy properly

LOS ANGELES — A tiny spacecraft orbiting Earth appeared to successfully unfurl a solar sail Tuesday to test the potential of using only sunlight for propulsion, mission officials said.

Deployment commands were sent to the Planetary Society's LightSail 2 from mission control at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

"Sail deployment appears to have been very successful," said Bruce Betts, LightSail program manager and chief scientist at the Planetary Society.

Photos to be transmitted later were expected to confirm data received from the spacecraft that included a count of the number of turns by a deployment motor.

"Success! We're sailing, peoples!" tweeted Bill Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society and better known to TV viewers as "The Science Guy."

The crowd-funded spacecraft, about the size of a loaf of bread, was among 24 research satellites launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Florida last month.

The sail is formed by four triangular sheets of extremely thin, reflective Mylar that form a square totaling 344 square feet (32 square meters).

If it works as planned, the momentum of photons hitting the sail will accelerate the craft, a method researchers see as a potential way to propel tiny satellites known as CubeSats.

Such acceleration occurs slowly but is constant, so speed will build up over time.

The project's goal is to try to have sunlight alone raise the orbit of LightSail 2 by a measureable amount.

It's the third solar sail project for The Planetary Society, a Pasadena-based organization that encourages advancement of space science and exploration.

The first mission, Cosmos 1, never reached orbit because of a launch rocket failure in 2005.

In 2015, LightSail 1 completed a test flight by deploying a sail before falling back into the atmosphere.

Japan's space agency also successfully launched a solar sail dubbed Ikaros in 2010.

The Planetary Society was founded by the late astronomer Carl Sagan and two veterans of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Louis Friedman and Bruce Murray.

Must Read

Powell discusses secret Israeli nukes in leaked...

Sep 16, 2016

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed Israel's nuclear weapons capability with a friend...

Arizona governor welcomes Uber fleet of...

Dec 23, 2016

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday morning welcomed a fleet of Uber self-driving cars delivered via...

Russia, brushing off Obama, looks to friendlier...

Dec 31, 2016

Stung by new punishments, Russia is looking straight past President Barack Obama to Donald Trump in...

Watchdog to probe Comey's, FBI's actions before...

Jan 12, 2017

The Justice Department inspector general has opened an investigation into department and FBI...

Surge in traffic deaths outpaces increase in...

Jan 13, 2017

The government says traffic deaths surged about 8 percent in the first nine months of last year,...

Sign up now!

About Us

In The Headline sought to bring professionalism back into journalism, bringing you only the most exclusive and the most impactive news from all over the globe.

Contact us: sales[at]intheheadline.com