LightSail 2 Sends Images Back to Earth, Prepares for Sail Deployment

New images of Earth come with news on solar sail deployment in the Planetary Society's latest update.

LightSail 2 Sends Images Back to Earth, Prepares for Sail Deployment
Prox-1 deploys the LightSail 2 spacecraft in Earth orbit. The Planetary Society

The first pictures of Earth sent from LightSail 2, the Carl Sagan-inspired solar sail, reached mission control yesterday.

The Planetary Society, who sent LightSail 2 into orbit with help from SpaceX, made the announcement in a statement. 

The same update gave news on the health status of the spacecraft and the upcoming deployment date for the solar sail.

RELATED: FIRST CONTACT MADE WITH LIGHTSAIL 2 SPACECRAFT SINCE ITS DEPLOYMENT

Images beamed down to Earth

Last Friday, the Planetary Society's mission control, at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California, successfully deployed the LightSail 2 spacecraft's dual-sided solar panels. 

Moments later, the spacecraft sent pictures of Earth, taken by a camera mounted on the solar panels, back down to mission control.

The space pictures, taken as the spacecraft was floating into an orbital sunset, show a crescent-shaped Earth silhouette.

LightSail 2 Sends Images Back to Earth, Prepares for Sail Deployment
Source: Planetary Society

The images, shown above and below, were shared in the Planetary Society's statement.

Lens flare artifacts in the shots were caused by sunlight scattering around the camera optics. The spacecraft’s dual fisheye cameras have fields of view of about 180 degrees. This causes the arcs in the corners of the images as well as a little distortion.

LightSail 2 Sends Images Back to Earth, Prepares for Sail Deployment
Source: Planetary Society

Sail deployment approaching

The Planetary Society statement originally said that the deployment of LightSail 2's solar sails could happen as early as today. However, an amendment was made after it was posted online:

"Update Sunday, 7 July: Sail deployment is now expected no earlier than Tuesday, 8 July."

LightSail 2 Sends Images Back to Earth, Prepares for Sail Deployment
An artist's rendering of LightSail 2 post-sail deployment. Source: Josh Spradling/The Planetary Society 

The Planetary Society announced that most of the tests, necessary to ensure sail deployment is possible, have already been completed.

However, a significant test on the spacecraft's attitude control system is yet to take place. This will make sure that LightSail 2 will be able to use the system to orient the spacecraft while solar sailing — it utilizes Sun sensors, magnetometers, and ground-uploaded position data.

The successful deployment of the LightSail 2's solar sail will see the Planetary Society make famous science populariser Carl Sagan's dreams, from 40 years ago, come true.

Advertisement