Planetary Society Hails NanoSail-D, Looks for LightSail-1 Launch Opportunity

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sail. Credit: Rick Sternbach/The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society, which has a solar sail mission of its own in the works, is taking a keen interest in NASA’s NanoSail-D spacecraft that successfully deployed earlier this week:

NASA has now confirmed that their NanoSail-D satellite has deployed its 100-square-foot sail in low-Earth orbit. The Planetary Society’s own solar sail project, LightSail-1, will soon be finished and ready for launch. Bill Nye, Executive Director of the Planetary Society, congratulated the NanoSail-D team on their achievement:

“Congratulations! Although NanoSail-D kept us waiting, we’re very pleased that it has successfully deployed,” said Nye. “This could be the beginning of a fundamental improvement in how we de-orbit spacecraft.”

Lou Friedman provided an update on LightSail-1 in a blog post:

The Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 and its twin back-up craft are being built now. While work has been delayed because of manufacturing problems with the TRAC booms (similar to those used on Nanosail but twice as long), we are told we will have them within a few weeks. Once we get the booms, we will be able to complete both spacecraft in a few months. We’re still searching for a launch opportunity for LightSail-1. We need a launch that can take us above the minimum 825 kilometers, where we can fly as a solar sail by increasing the orbital energy. Several possibilities are being pursued, but none, yet, before the end of this year.

Let’s hope they get a launch. The solar sail is a promising technology for both propulsion and de-orbiting satellites at the end of their missions.

In the meantime, The Planetary Society is collecting names and messages to be sent into space aboard LightSail.