Innovations That Matter

Solar sailing has the potential to make space travel cheaper and allow for interstellar travel | Photo source Planetary Society

Spacecraft uses solar power to orbit Earth

Science

LightSail 2 aims to prove that solar sailing is a cost-effective way to propel small satellites through space

Spotted: The US-based Planetary Society has deployed a solar-powered spacecraft. LightSail 2 is the first spacecraft to orbit the Earth propelled only by solar power, according to the Planetary Society. 

LightSail 2 features a small, bread-loaf-sized satellite and four large solar sails. The sails’ mirrored surfaces capture energy from the sun. The energy is used to propel the spacecraft forward, a process known as solar sailing. The solar energy provides a slow but constant push forward, which can gain speed as the spacecraft travels. 

LightSail 2 aims to show that solar sailing is a viable means of propulsion for small spacecraft known as CubeSats. “We are advancing space science and exploration. We are democratising space. We are innovating,” Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye said.

The LightSail 2 was launched into space on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. It will spend a month getting into orbit and remain in space for one year. The project cost €6.3 million and was financed by Planetary Society members, private citizens and a KickStarter campaign.

Springwise has spotted other innovations aimed at making space travel more accessible. The European Space Agency is developing a reusable space vehicle and British startup Orbex has unveiled a 3D-printed rocket engine capable of launching satellites

Email: tps@planetary.org

Website: planetary.org

Contact: planetary.org/about/contact

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