LightSail® is a crowdfunded solar sail project from The Planetary Society. The LightSail 2 spacecraft, launching no earlier than 24 June 2019, aims to become the first spacecraft in Earth orbit propelled solely by sunlight. The goal is to raise LightSail 2’s orbit by a measurable amount, showing that solar sailing is a viable means of propulsion for CubeSats—small, standardized spacecraft that are part of a global effort to lower the cost of space exploration.
The Planetary Society has championed solar sailing for decades. In 2005 we launched the world’s first solar sailing spacecraft, Cosmos 1, which was lost due to a rocket failure. Ten years later in 2015, our LightSail 1 spacecraft successfully completed a test flight. This month, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy will launch LightSail 2 as part of the U.S. Air Force’s STP-2 mission from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During launch LightSail 2 will be enclosed within Prox-1, a small satellite built by Georgia Tech students.
LightSail 2 is a historic spacecraft that has been in the works at The Planetary Society for the last decade. The spacecraft carrying LightSail 2 was expected to launch on June 22, but that launch has been delayed and will now happen no earlier than June 24, 2019. LightSail 2 will head into orbit as part of the Air Force’s Space Test Program-2 mission.