June 10, 2015
Some positive news in space exploration as the LightSail Spacecraft has regained function and connection with it’s command team after about eight days of silence from malfunctions and unexpected silence.
The LightSail which uses force from the collisions of photons against it’s mylar sail (much like a sailboat uses wind – see diagram below) is the first of two LightSail to be launched into orbit from the project totaling $5.3 million. A small price in the grand scheme of space spending and research since famous scientists such as Carl Sagan had been dreaming of a project like this while the theoretically properties of a LightSail design have been known for some time.
The big benefit of the LightSail is that since it’s powered by the photons released from the sun it does not require any sort of rocket engine that would require fossil fuels for propulsion.
This first LightSail however is not in a high enough orbit to test properly, it is still in a region where atmospheric pressure and friction will be too great of a force compared to the collision of a photon for the LightSail to function properly. Fortunately this was all planned and this first launch was more of a test for launching LightSail number two.
A lightsail works just like the sail of a ship except instead of wind particles used as a force for propulsion, photons from the sun are used. The sun releases absurd amounts of photons in every direction every second, and when the sail from the LightSail intercepts these photons, the collisions provide enough force to send the LightSail moving through space.