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Thread: Lightsail 2: Flying In Space On "Solar" Power

  1. #1
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    Default Lightsail 2: Flying In Space On "Solar" Power

    El Reg:

    A small cube sat has become the first spacecraft in Earth’s orbit to fly using only the power of sunlight shining down on its solar sail, after it was successfully deployed on Tuesday.
    The Planetary Society, a nonprofit focused on space exploration and currently led by Bill Nye (yes, the Science Guy), announced it had successfully unfurled the shimmering silver sail attached to the LightSail 2 spacecraft. The 32 meter square sail, held by on four cobalt-alloy booms, is now accelerating powered by nothing but the sun's emissions.


    Here’s a short animation of what it looks like in space, since the team of controllers haven’t managed to retrieve any real photos of the sail from the camera aboard on LightSail 2 yet. But they did confirm that they successfully kicked the spacecraft in solar sailing mode and that the momentum wheel, used to steer it to fly high enough to deploy its sails, had spun up.

    The sail works by collecting photons emitted from the Sun; these particles bounce off its reflective surface and impart a little momentum. As tons of photons strike the sail, they apply force (not much - about the same as a paperclip on your hand), but since there's no friction in space this will propel the spacecraft forward at ever-faster speeds. Lasers have also been postulated to add extra force to the sails.
    More at source, including a working copy of the animation.
    Last edited by The Irreverent Mr Black; 24th July 2019 at 05:56 PM.

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    Default Re: Lightsail 2: Flying In Space On "Solar" Power

    Do you think It could have been inspired by the Deep Space Nine episode 'Explorers' back in '95?
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    Default Re: Lightsail 2: Flying In Space On "Solar" Power

    Quote knowledge is power said View Post
    Do you think It could have been inspired by the Deep Space Nine episode 'Explorers' back in '95?
    Earlier, KiP!

    Kepler, 1600s, according to source:
    For centuries, it was only a dream: traveling through space propelled by the sun’s photons. It was first imagined in the 1600s by Johannes Kepler, the German astronomer who described the laws of the planets’ orbits. In 1964, Arthur C. Clarke moved it into the realm of science fiction in “Sunjammer,” a short story. Carl Sagan, the cosmologist, believed it could be more than a speculative fantasy, and in the 1970s began promoting the building of solar sails for space exploration.

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    Default Re: Lightsail 2: Flying In Space On "Solar" Power

    Pardon my scientific ignorance;

    Am I right to assume the craft will be able to remain free of planetary gravity, and having achieved momentum will continue into space indefinitely?

    With nothing in space to cause friction or corrosion, barring accident , the craft will continue for millennia at a speed eventually approaching the speed of light? Will it actually become interstellar?

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    Default Re: Lightsail 2: Flying In Space On "Solar" Power

    @Bunyip: this little chap won't go far.

    LightSail 2's attitude control system does not have the precision to maintain a circular orbit and continuously fly the spacecraft higher. Therefore, as one side of LightSail 2’s orbit rises, the other side will dip lower, until atmospheric drag overcomes the forces of solar sailing, ending the primary mission. The spacecraft will remain in orbit roughly a year before entering the atmosphere and burning up.

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  8. #6
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    Default Re: Lightsail 2: Flying In Space On "Solar" Power

    Quote The Irreverent Mr Black said View Post
    Terribly sorry to learn that. I guess I was expecting far too much , based on decades of science fiction. The concept is so enthralling. However, I will live with the hope that this endeavor is just the beginning. Who knows what a couple of hundred years might bring?

    ---In the meantime, I 'm watching the mind bending Terminator 3, having only just realised I've never seen it.

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