A Purdue University professor has received the all-clear to launch a satellite that will attempt the first controlled solar sailing in Earth’s orbit. The privatley-funded project from The Planetary Society is in partnership with the U.S. Air Force.
Solar sailing involves using reflective sails to concentrate the momentum of sunlight for propulsion.
The university says the project, LightSail 2, aims to showcase solar sailing as a method of propulsion for CubeSats by performing two turns of the spacecraft, every orbit. The final result of the process is to heighten the orbital energy about Earth, stretching the first near-circular orbit into an ellipse.
Professor David Spencer has been involved with the LightSail program since 2010 and is currently leading the initiative.
“While there have been several previous solar sail deployment demonstration missions, if all goes as planned LightSail 2 will become the first spacecraft to increase its orbital energy through controlling the sail orientation relative to the sun,” said Spencer, an associate professor in Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics and project manager for LightSail 2.
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