LightSail Gets a Ride to Orbit

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


NASA announced this week that the Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sail mission is on their short list for upcoming launch opportunities. The missions selected are Cubesats destined for piggyback launches as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.

“This is great news,” said Louis Friedman, Program Director for LightSail-1. “Our spacecraft will be ready this summer, and we are hoping for the earliest launch possible.”


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.”


Planetary Society Wishes NASA Well on NanoSail-D Mission

NanoSail-D (Credit: NASA)

Planetary Society Statement
by Louis D. Friedman

NASA’s Nanosail-D is scheduled to launch on Friday — and we wish them well. Nanosail is an innovative development by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight and Ames Research Centers, and in many ways is the inspiration for the Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft, scheduled to be ready early in 2011 to carry out the first solar-sail propelled flight in Earth orbit.

The spacecraft is the same size and approximate mass as our own Lightsail-1, although Nanosail’s sail is smaller (3 meters on a side, instead of 4.5 meters). Nanosail will be pioneering the use of the Air Force Research Lab’s TRAC booms, which we will also be using on Lightsail-1. We’ll be interested in evaluating their deployment experience and understanding any implications to our own design.


Bill Nye, Lou Friedman to Discuss New Space Plan on Webchat

Where Should We Go in Space?
Tell Bill Nye During a Live Ustream Chat

“Tell us where you want to go in space!” said Bill Nye, slated to take the reins as the Planetary Society’s new executive director.

Nye will join Louis Friedman, the Society’s current executive director, on July 14, 2010 to talk with the public about The New NASA Plan — Destinations, during a live interactive video event on Ustream.


Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 Solar Vehicle Proceeding Toward Launch

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

As Japan prepares to deploy its IKAROS solar sail spacecraft, the Planetary Society’s Lou Friedman has published an update on the non-profit group’s similar effort, LightSail-1, which is set for launch during the second quarter of 2011. An excerpt:

The LightSail-1 spacecraft development is proceeding well. Our engineering team—led by Jim Cantrell—has completed the preliminary design and made critical decisions to select the hardware and subsystem for the final design—crucial milestones to building the vehicle that will demonstrate the value and potential of using sunlight alone to propel exploratory craft through space.


Planetary Society Welcomes New NASA Budget


NASA received both strong support and a new direction from the Obama Administration in the fiscal year 2011 budget proposal. The new funding – an increase of six billion dollars over five years – stands out in the face of a widespread government budget freeze. Among other noteworthy proposals is the major shift to commercially developed rockets for human space flight.

While many details are still to emerge, The Planetary Society welcomes the overall budget increase and other proposals by the Obama Administration for NASA, and urges Congress to use the Administration’s proposal to finally advance human exploration beyond Earth orbit and beyond the Moon.


Planetary Society Cancels Lunch with Hawking, Buzz

stephen_hawkingThe Planetary Society has canceled a planned Jan. 23 luncheon to honor Stephen Hawking because the famed physicist is unable to fly to Pasadena, Lou Friedman writes on the society’s website.

Dr. Hawking has been advised by his doctors not to fly at this time. He is well — and still working in his office in the UK — but he’s unable to travel to California.

The Planetary Society had planned to present Hawking with the Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Friedman writes that the group will present the award to Hawking at another time.

The event was also to be an 80th birthday party for Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a long-time supporter of the society.

We’re making a giant birthday card to include everyone’s best wishes. If you haven’t already, you can send your message to Buzz online.

Planetary Society Unveils New Solar Sail Project on Sagan’s Birthday

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


“We’re back!” said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. “With an even more ambitious solar sail program than our last venture.”

The Planetary Society today announced LightSail, a plan to sail a spacecraft on sunlight alone by the end of 2010. The new solar sail project, boosted by a one-million-dollar anonymous donation, was unveiled at an event on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C on the 75th anniversary of the birth of Planetary Society co-founder Carl Sagan, a long-time advocate of solar sailing.


Druyan: Solar Sail Could be “Kitty Hawk” Moment

solarsail_msfc has an interesting interview with writer-producer Ann Druyan, who is the widow of Carl Sagan. She talks about the Apollo program and her hopes for the future of America’s space program.

S: Do you have any particular space endeavors in mind?

A: I would love to see personally – and have been working as hard as I can on the notion of – solar sailing. This is something that could be tremendously cost-effective, because solar sailing is a way to move through the cosmos at speeds unprecedented. You know Voyager moves at 38,000 miles an hour, which is very impressive and extremely fast to us. But of course the cosmos is so very big that that won’t get you very far. Solar sailing is a way to move ten times faster.

I’ve been working with the Planetary Society for the last decade trying to launch a solar sailing mission precisely because I believe it would be a Kitty Hawk moment for space exploration. It would thrill me to see a very ambitious program of solar sail research, because I think that that would give us an edge, and I think we want that feeling again of being on the cutting edge.

Read the full interview.

Friedman Works to Resurrect Solar Sail Project

Across the Universe
The Atlantic

The Volna rocket had risen out of the water, flown through the sky, and pierced the low-lying clouds. The Volna, a Soviet-era ICBM, had been refitted for peaceful duty, and on this first day of summer, it was lifting Cosmos 1 up from a Russian submarine and toward Earth orbit. If the spacecraft got there, it would deploy eight tissue-thin “blades,” 600 square meters of Mylar that would catch the sun and begin propelling the craft, on nothing but light, through humankind’s first solar-sailing voyage. The ship, beautiful as a flower or firework, would be controlled from the ground by two teams, each so small that Mission Operations Moscow was called MOM and Project Operations Pasadena was POP….