LightSail 2 successfully demonstrates solar sailing
LightSail 2 is faring much better than its ill-fated predecessor. The Planetary Society has verified that LightSail 2 successfully raised its orbit using solar sailing, making it the first small spacecraft to demonstrate the concept (though Japan’s IKAROS was the first of any kind to fly). The team is now focused on raising the solar sailer’s orbit for about a month’s time as it continues to improve sail control through software updates and new techniques.
After the month has passed, the craft will spend another year gradually deorbiting.
It’s a rare achievement in spaceflight, and notable when LightSail relied partly on crowdfunding to make their project a reality. What’s important, though, is what comes next. The Society intends to share data with others so they can implement or refine plans for solar sailing in their own vehicles, such as NASA’s asteroid-bound NEA Scout cubesat. You could see a wave of mini satellites that only need solar nudges to adjust their positions, and possibly larger spacecraft beyond that.