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LightSail Written Tuesday 23rd of June 2015 at 06:14pm by Nehkara

Hello Citizens! Nehkara here. I’d like to talk to you about a citizen-funded solar sailing spacecraft. LightSail is a tiny 30 x 10 x 10 cm spacecraft weighing just 11 lbs.  When the sails on the...

Hello Citizens! Nehkara here. I’d like to talk to you about a citizen-funded solar sailing spacecraft.

LightSail is a tiny 30 x 10 x 10 cm spacecraft weighing just 11 lbs.  When the sails on the spacecraft are deployed, they measure a whopping 32 square meters or 344 square feet.  This spacecraft has been developed by The Planetary Society which is a global non-proft, non-government organization that anyone can join whose mission is to: “Empower the world’s citizens to advance space science and exploration.”

Some of you may have heard in the news recently about the LightSail-A test spacecraft that was launched on May 20th of this year. After a successful launch, the tiny spacecraft ran into some problems.

The first issue showed up on May 22nd when a software glitch essentially caused the spacecraft to freeze like your computer would freeze.  Unfortunately with no one up there to hit the power button and reset it, The Planetary Society had to wait and see if a stray cosmic ray would hit the spacecraft and give it a “natural reset” by impacting its electronics.  This occurred on May 31st, with The Planetary Society regaining contact with LightSail-A.  The spacecraft successfully deployed its solar panels (you can see an animation of that below) on June 3rd.  Unfortunately a suspected battery fault caused loss of contact with the spacecraft again on June 4th.  Contact was once again re-established on June 6th and on June 7th the solar sails of LightSail-A were successfully deployed:

Despite all the complications, LightSail-A was a success! 

Now, to the matter at hand!  The official first full mission for LightSail will be LightSail-1.  Its mission will be to demonstrate that LightSail’s solar sails can in fact provide propulsion to the tiny spacecraft.

The Planetary Society is currently running a Kickstarter to fill in some gaps in funding for this little spacecraft designed to surf the solar winds.  The Kickstarter has been extremely successful to date, raising over $1 million with an original goal of $200,000.  The final stretch goal for the project is $1.24 million which will allow The Planetary Society to use the information garnered from LightSail-A to do a major overhaul of LightSail-1 including:

  • Avionics Upgrade
  • Power System Revision
  • Camera Upgrade
  • Redundant Burnwire system

And tons more!

So, the folk here at The Relay are asking, if you are able, to help Kickstart LightSail and prove that individual citizens have a direct role to play in space exploration.  They also have some really neat backer rewards.

If you are wondering who is involved in running The Planetary Society, you may know the CEO:  Bill Nye… and maybe even one of the Board of Directors:  Neil deGrasse Tyson.

There are just 59 hours left to join in, as of this post!

Future missions for LightSail will be LightSail-2 and LightSail-3.

LightSail-2 will have more complex mission goals including collecting scientific data and improving spacecraft control while solar sailing.

LightSail-3 will go beyond Earth’s orbit and journey to the L1 Lagrangian Point where it will be used to detect geomagnetic storms on the Sun.

If you would like to become a member of The Planetary Society and support space science and exploration, many of the backer rewards for the LightSail Kickstarter include membership or you can do so directly at the main website here:

The Planetary Society

Images and Videos






Writer and inhabitant of the Star Citizen subreddit.