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Solar sail LightSail 2 successfully contacted the Earth. What's next?

Any kind of fuel is for satellitescostly and heavy, so scientists are trying to set them in motion in alternative ways. The planetary society, which has been involved in space projects since 1980, proposes the use of so-called solar sails, which are capable of pushing the apparatus through particles of light emitted by the sun. The technology is currently being tested on LightSail satellites - the second version was launched into orbit at the end of June 2019 using the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, and recently connected to Earth.

Thanks to the signal received on July 2,researchers were convinced of the efficiency of the device. The satellite messages were call signs in the form of Morse code, and were sent to Earth by a recently deployed radio antenna. Now, when the staff of the Planetary Society made sure that the satellite is not broken and ready to work, they can give him a command to reveal the main element - the solar sail.

Satellite LightSail 2 is ready to open the solar sail

The device itself has the size of a small loafbread, but the area of ​​ultra-thin sail with four panels is as much as 50 square meters. After opening, the sail will begin to receive the elementary particles of light, the photons emitted by the sun. It is these tiny particles that will push the device in the right direction. The researchers believe that the technology will be particularly useful in Kubsat - ultra-small satellites, in which every gram of weight is important.

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After that, the researchers for 30 dayswill monitor the movement of the device in earth orbit. If it moves without deviations, the efficiency of the solar sail will finally be proven. It is possible that it will become an integral part of future satellites, which will no longer depend on fuel, and will be able to work a record long time.

The first satellite with a solar sail

Notably, LightSail 2 is not the firstspacecraft moving with the help of a solar sail. In 2010, the IKAROS satellite was launched into Earth orbit, but two years later it fell into hibernation because it could not catch the sunlight.

We also recommend reading: How do satellites work?

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