On June 25, LightSail 2 flew into space on the Falcon Heavy ride, and has since sent signals to the control team on Earth. The Planetary Society has now unveiled the sail's ability to navigate by increasing its orbit, using only sunlight as its feed. The team has a list of 73 steps to test their systems and has exceeded researchers' expectations. The system is being improved, including candle control, using software updates and new techniques, as you can read in the published article.
The data obtained through the crowdfunding funded project will be shared with other entities that need to implement or use the concept of solar sailing in their own vehicles, notably NASA's NEA Scout cubesat. LightSail 2's experiments ensure the reliability of the concept, started by Ikaros, a Japanese concept that was the first of its kind to fly.
The Planetary Society explained that in recent days the spacecraft has reached its highest orbital point, the apogee, by two kilometers. The reverse, the perigee, went down in the same direction, which according to the Society, demonstrated consistency using only sunlight to power these propulsion movements, something that had not yet been done and was in line with the expectations generated before its launch. .
The achievement, according to The Planetary Society, is a dream come true, but imagined for decades, noting that Carl Sagan was already talking about solar navigation in his classes in 1977. Or going back many years back to 1067, when Kepler theorized that Comet tails should be created by the sun's energy. In this sense, "the LightSail 2 mission is a game changer for spaceflight and advanced space exploration," the scientific document says.
The LightSail 2 project cost $ 7 million and was developed between 2009 and March 2019, involving the donation of about 50,000 members of The Planetary Society from over 100 countries.