LightSail Sends First Data Back to Earth

The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft is sending home telemetry data following a Wednesday commute to orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Deployment from the Centaur upper stage occurred at 1:05 p.m. EDT (17:05 p.m. UTC), and LightSail crossed into range of its Cal Poly San Luis Obispo ground station at 2:20 p.m. EDT (18:20 UTC). With the LightSail team on console, The Planetary Society staff gathered in Cocoa Beach, Florida to listen in as the first signals were received from space.

The Planetary Society of the United States initiated a short test of an artificial satellite “LightSail-A” that launched on 20 May 2015. The purpose of the test is to allow a full checkout of the satellite’s systems in advance of the main 2016 mission, LightSail-1. The mission is being funded on Kickstarter by over 10,300 supporters currently. Over $550,000 has been raised with the goal of $1 million.

LightSail-1 is a solar sail project scheduled for launch in April 2016 and developed by the Planetary Society, a global non-profit organization devoted to space exploration. The kite-shaped spacecraft, which was announced in 2009, will have a total cross-section of 32 square meters (340 sq ft), and will be fitted with guidance and diagnostic electronics. If the project is successful, two more solar sails, LightSail-2 and LightSail-3, will be built

Jason Davis / The Planetary Society. LightSail Liftoff The Planetary Society’s LightSail test spacecraft lifts off on its maiden voyage. Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket occured at 11:05 a.m. EDT (15:55 UTC).