Above the Earth opened a huge sunny sail LightSail 2

There are a thousand orbiting Earth right nowartificial satellites, practically each of which moves with the help of expensive ion engines with a lifetime of no more than three years. If these engines are so expensive and short-lived, why don't scientists develop a cheaper and more reliable satellite control option? This will surprise many, but it has already been created and applied in the LightSail 2 test satellite - it moves around the planet due to the solar particles that push the sail attached to the satellite. The huge and brilliant canvas was deployed on July 23, and it is quite possible to see it from the Earth.

Satellite LightSail 2 the size of a loaf of bread waslaunched into Earth orbit at the end of June 2019 using the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. Yes, in itself it is very small, but the area of ​​its sail is almost the same as that of the boxing ring. Initially, the sail was not opened, because it was important for scientists to check the working capacity of the satellite. It was possible to make sure that the device was working on July 2, when the device successfully transmitted its first message from Morse code to Earth.

New satellite LightSail

Convinced of the working capacity of the satellite, scientistsbegan to test his ability to adhere to a given route so that the device is always exposed to the sun. The researchers managed to find a few errors in the software of the device and quickly correct them with an update. While all this was happening, the device made a photo in which you can see the outlines of the Earth, glare from the Sun and various elements of the satellite itself.

Photo taken by LightSail 2 satellite

In the end, scientists managed to do soso that the device is always under the influence of the sun. The main element of the satellite, a huge sail, was unveiled on July 23. The opening took place in two stages: first, the supports stretched out of the apparatus case, and then four brilliant canvases stretched along them.

The size of the satellite LightSail 2 is almost the same as that of the boxing ring.

The event was broadcast on YouTube, howeverbesides the joy of the test team after successfully deploying the sail, there's nothing interesting on the video. The researchers did not show exactly how the sail unfolds, and they themselves learned about its opening only by tracking the activity of the engine responsible for deploying the four canvases. When they began to pull on the supports, the motor was active, and when the process was completed, it stopped.

Hats off the mission team on deployment success !!

- Planetary Society (@exploreplanets) July 23, 2019

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How to see the sun sail?

The huge sail will remain uncovered onover 30 days, because the researchers intend to carefully monitor its movement. Perhaps we will be able to see him even with the naked eye - just need to wait until he flies over the territory of Russia. To learn about the current location of the satellite LightSail 2, you can use a special site.

This is interesting: How do satellites melt in the earth's atmosphere?

What do you think, will the ion engines used in the satellites replace the solar sails? Share your opinion in the comments, or in our Telegram-chat.