A new spacecraft’s solar LightSail 2 successfully deployed as it journeys around earth carrying a small satellite that will harness the momentum of packets of light energy known as photons.
LightSail 2’s solar sail has an area of 32 square meters and is made from Mylar, a brand of polyester that has been on the market since the 1950s.
Planetary Society Director Bill Nye, famous in American pop-culture for his eponymous children’s show “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” told that the solar sail is a romantic idea whose time has finally come.
"We hope this technology catches on"
The solar sail will remain in orbit around Earth and, if all goes as planned, will gradually increase its altitude thanks to pressure from solar radiation on the sail.
After uploading a software patch and re-testing the attitude control system, the team was again ready to proceed. The whole deployment took about three minutes. Soon, LightSail 2 will begin to live up to its name.
As per its role in the future, Nye says the solar sail could one day be employed to send robotic missions beyond our solar system. While the initial speed of a spacecraft would be slower than if equipped with a motor, it would accelerate continuously and ultimately reach extraordinary speeds.