LightSail 2: Solar Sail Spacecraft Raises its Orbit by 3.2 Kilometers in Only 2 Weeks

The Carl Sagan-inspired mission continues to give us updates on the viability of solar propulsion.

The Planetary Society has released new updates on its solar sailing spacecraft, LightSail 2.

Namely, they announced that by using the propulsion of photons from sunlight, LightSail 2 has raised its orbit around the Earth to as high as 729 kilometers since deployment - that's an increase of 3.2 kilometers from where it started.

RELATED: LIGHTSAIL 2: SOLAR SAILING MISSION OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED A SUCCESS

Solar sailing 

The LightSail 2 solar sail was deployed on July 23.

Inspired by Carl Sagan, the concept has successfully been shown to use sunlight for propulsion.

As a result, the LightSail 2 spacecraft has been able to raise its orbit by 3.2 kilometers, the Planetary Society has said in a blog post.

Along with the impressive new orbital raising figures of 3.2 kilometers, the update gives us new images and charts detailing the sail's orientation relative to the Sun.

LightSail 2: Solar Sail Spacecraft Raises its Orbit by 3.2 Kilometers in Only 2 Weeks
LightSail 2 solar sailing over Baja California. Source: The Planetary Society

A sunflower-like spacecraft

The below video, created by Ph.D. researcher Justin Mansell who works on the mission, uses data from the spacecraft to visualize LightSail 2 as it orbited the Earth on July 28.

The red line in the video points towards the direction of the Sun, while the blue line shows the direction of the local magnetic field. 

It shows the way that the sail is turned towards the Sun when orbiting away from it, in order to catch sunrays. When it is sailing towards the Sun, meanwhile, the sail turns sideways so as to avoid being slowed down.

Excellent orbital performance

The purpose of the LightSail 2 mission is to test the viability of solar propulsion as a way to propel light CubeSat satellites in orbit through space.

LightSail 2: Solar Sail Spacecraft Raises its Orbit by 3.2 Kilometers in Only 2 Weeks
LightSail 2 artist render (Screen capture). Source: The Planetary Society/YouTube

 As the Planetary Society's blog update says, "on LightSail 2's best day so far, the spacecraft raised its apogee by about 900 meters, showing the promise of flight by light for small spacecraft—the main goal of the program."

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