"Hi everyone! Let's go sailing on sunlight shall we?" That was the Planetary Society's first comment on the live-stream for LightSail 2's solar sail deployment.
While mission control is yet to retrieve images from the sun-propelled spacecraft, the team live-streamed the successful operation from inside their HQ and said, "all indications are that LightSail 2 has deployed its solar sail as planned."
A live-streamed solar sail show
The LightSail 2 team put up a live web stream on their website yesterday starting slightly after 20:00 CET, which can be seen below.
Though the stream itself ran into a few issues with audio, and only really showed the team as they carried out the sail deployment, it was a live insight into a piece of space history as it was taking place.
SAIL DEPLOYMENT COMPLETE! We're sailing on SUNLIGHT!!!!! pic.twitter.com/PA74NMa7Ry— Planetary Society (@exploreplanets) July 23, 2019
Carl Sagan's dream project came true, as the team provided several live updates on Twitter and on their website, ultimately confirming the success of LightSail 2's solar sail deployment.
By all accounts, the LightSail 2 spacecraft looks like it is being propelled by the continual acceleration of photons from sunlight — just as it had set out to do.
The Planetary Society team took motor readings which indicated that the motor had successfully deployed the solar sail.
DEPLOYMENT COMPLETE! Telemetry shows motor has reached target count! pic.twitter.com/GhKv3ptdQS— Planetary Society (@exploreplanets) July 23, 2019
Now the team, and the public, wait with bated breath for the first images of the deployed sail to be relayed down to Earth.
Images hopefully coming today
The Planetary Society team can retrieve information any time LightSail 2 passes over several ground stations on Earth during its orbit.
While updates did say LightSail 2's angle control system data showed the solar sail was angled within 30 degrees of its expected orientation — a promising sign that the spacecraft is tracking the Sun properly — images are yet to be retrieved.
Communications performance is lower than previous passes, possibly "due to the orientation of the spacecraft during the pass and the presence of the newly deployed solar sail," the team said on Twitter.
The most recent update (yesterday) said the following:
The team was not able to download image thumbnails and will try again tomorrow. Our website is still having problems; thanks so much for your patience and stay tuned for more updates!— Planetary Society (@exploreplanets) July 23, 2019
Carl Sagan never saw his dream project come true, and many have wanted to see a functioning solar sail for decades. We can wait for a few hours.