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Astronomy and Space Exploration Reporting

The Falcon Heavy will launch a solar sail in space

A sailing satellite, LightSail 2, will be launched on June 22 aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy. This satellite aims to demonstrate that it is able to move in space thanks to the energy provided by the Sun’s light.

After LightSail in 2015, the Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 will be launched in June aboard the third flight of a Falcon Heavy. The launch is currently scheduled for June 22 from the Kennedy Space Center NASA. During this flight, the Falcon Heavy will send 25 satellites in three different orbits, as part of Usaf’s STP-2 (Space Test Program 2) mission.

Weighing just five kilograms, LightSail 2 is composed of a 3-unit CubeSat (3U) and a 32-square-meter solar sail when deployed. LightSail 2 will be housed in Prox-1, which will deploy to orbit approximately seven days after launch. LightSail 2 aims to demonstrate the feasibility of using a solar sail for the propulsion of CubeSats and nanosatellites. For this, he will use the photons of the Sunto reach the target orbit. It is expected that approximately one month after its deployment, the Sun photon surge will allow LightSail 2 to raise its orbit a sufficient distance to be measured. The data from this demonstration will be shared with NASA, which is planning a NEA Scout, a nanosatellite (6U) with a solar sail 85 square meters that will be launched to an asteroid near the Earth.

Using the photonic energy of the Sun

The principle of the solar sail is simpler than we think. It is similar to that of wind sails but it is the flow of solar photons, not the air currents, that pushes the satellite. By “bouncing” on the sail that acts as a mirror, solar radiation exerts a push on it. The solar pressure is very low and decreases proportionally to the square of the distance to the Sun. But it acts constantly. In other words, it is necessary to maximize the ratio S / m (area relative to the mass of the satellite).

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