Planetary Society to Deploy LightSail 2 on Tuesday

Artist’s concept of LightSail 2 above Earth. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

LightSail 2 Mission Update
The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 spacecraft is almost ready to go solar sailing. 

Mission officials today cleared the spacecraft for a possible sail deployment attempt on Tuesday, 23 July 2019, during a ground station pass that starts at roughly 11:22 PDT (18:22 UTC). A backup pass is available the following orbit starting at 13:07 PDT (20:07 UTC). These times may change slightly as new orbit predictions become available. 

Live sail deployment coverage will be available at planetary.org/live. A video and audio stream from mission control, located at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California, will be available during ground station passes. Rolling updates will also be posted on the page for context.

Planetary Society Encouraged by Proposed NASA Budget

Planetary_Society_LogoPASADENA, Calif., February 11, 2016 (Planetary Society PR) — In response to U.S. President Obama’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Budget Request, The Planetary Society issued the following statements from Bill Nye, CEO, and Casey Dreier, director of space policy:

“The President’s recent budget request is catching up with recent congressional actions in support of NASA. It’s especially good to see the increases for space science. But we can do more. The nation asks so much of NASA, and NASA delivers. NASA is maintaining operations aboard the space station, while it’s actively exploring the Solar System and distant reaches of the cosmos—all while planning missions to send humans to Mars. The Planetary Society urges Congress to continue their support of NASA in 2017 by allowing its budget to increase above inflation. The world is in love with space exploration, and NASA is the best brand the United States has. With the right resources, NASA can lead the way deeper into space.”

– Bill Nye, CEO, The Planetary Society

“While it is satisfying to see the White House increase its request for NASA’s Planetary Science Division to $1.52 billion, it still represents a cut to the program’s current funding level. The Planetary Society believes that all of NASA’s space science divisions deserve support, even Planetary Science, which has now experienced five proposed budget cuts in five years. After the stunning successes of last year’s Pluto flyby, the exploration of Ceres, and the confirmation of flowing water on Mars, the nation should not back away from planetary exploration now.

“We urge Congress to continue their trend of enacting NASA budgets above the President’s request. Using the FY 2016 congressional budget as a baseline going forward would help sustain NASA as the world leader in human spaceflight, robotic exploration, space science, aeronautics, and fundamental scientific research.”

– Casey Dreier, director of space policy, The Planetary Society











LightSail-A Named Smallsat Mission of the Year

LightSail spacecraft with solar sail deployed. (Credit: The Planetary Society)
LightSail spacecraft with solar sail deployed. (Credit: The Planetary Society)

LOGAN, UT (Planetary Society PR) — At the 29th annual American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)/Utah State University (USU) Conference on Small Satellites, The Planetary Society’s citizen-funded LightSail spacecraft test mission (LightSail-A) was named Mission of the Year by the AIAA Small Satellite Technical Committee. Eleven standout small satellite projects from around the world were nominated by a committee of experts. A voting period during the conference engaged the engineering and scientific community and the public.

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LightSail Deploys Solar Sail

PASADENA, Calif., June 7, 2015 (Planetary Society PR) — After 19 days on orbit, data indicate that The Planetary Society’s LightSail™ spacecraft deployed its Mylar® solar sail in space. More information will be downloaded, analyzed and publicized in days to come, including possible images. A post-deployment press conference will occur following an initial data analysis period.

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NASA Pays for Launch of Planetary Society’s LightSail

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — With help from NASA, a small research satellite to test technology for in-space solar propulsion launched into space Wednesday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.

The Atlas V sent the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B space plane on its fourth mission, which also is carrying NASA’s Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS) investigation that will expose about 100 different materials samples to the space environment for more than 200 days.

The Planetary Society’s LightSail satellite is a technology demonstration for using solar propulsion on CubeSats, a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. Using the momentum transferred from solar photons as they strike a large, thin, reflective sail would allow a spacecraft to accelerate continuously using only the sun’s energy. NASA is considering the use of solar sails on future exploration mission secondary payloads, and data from this mission will advance understanding of this form of propulsion.

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ULA Launches X-37B, LightSail into Orbit

Atlas V liftoff (Credit: ULA)
Atlas V liftoff (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., May 20, 2015 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully launched the Air Force Space Command 5 (AFSPC-5) satellite for the U.S. Air Force at 11:05 a.m. EDT today from Space Launch Complex-41.The rocket carried the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle or OTV, a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force.

“ULA is honored to launch this unique spacecraft for the U.S Air Force. Congratulations to the Air Force and all of our mission partners on today’s successful launch! The seamless integration between the Air Force, Boeing, and the entire mission team culminated in today’s successful launch of the AFSPC-5 mission” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs.

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Planetary Society’s LightSail Spacecraft Arrives at Cape

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

PASADENA, Calif., March 9, 2015 (Planetary Society PR) – The Planetary Society’s privately funded LightSail spacecraft has arrived in Cape Canaveral, Fla., where it will be integrated with an Atlas V rocket scheduled to launch no earlier than May 6. The spacecraft is part of a secondary payload dubbed ULTRASat, which will fly aboard the U.S. Air Force mission AFSPC-5.

Bill Nye (The Science Guy), CEO at The Planetary Society, issued the following statement:

Our LightSail cubesat passed every one of its tests and has been loaded into its launcher mechanism. I’m naturally happy and excited, but I admit, a bit nervous. We’ve been working to get a solar sail into space since I joined The Planetary Society Board in 1997. It’s quite a milestone. Deep breath, no turning back now, this baby’s on its own now. Here we go…

For complete coverage of the LightSail test flight, as well as the second LightSail mission scheduled for 2016, visit sail.planetary.org.

Previous LightSail press release: January 26, 2015

About the Planetary Society

Celebrating 35 years, The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. With the mission to empower the world’s citizens to advance space science and exploration, its international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded the Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a longtime member of the Planetary Society’s Board, serves as CEO.











Planetary Society Announces May Flight Test for LightSail Spacecraft

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

PASADENA, CA (Planetary Society PR) – The Planetary Society today announced the first of its LightSail spacecraft will embark on a May 2015 test flight. Funded entirely by private citizens, the solar sail satellite will hitch a ride to space aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission will test LightSail’s critical functions, a precursor to a second mission slated for 2016. That second flight will mark the first controlled, Earth-orbit solar sail flight and ride along with the first operational launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket.

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Planetary Society’s LightSail Spacecraft to Launch Aboard Falcon Heavy in 2016

The Planetary Society's LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society’s LightSail-1 solar sailing spacecraft is scheduled to ride a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit in 2016 with its parent satellite, Prox-1. (Credit: Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society)

PASADENA, Calif. (Planetary Society PR) — The Planetary Society, the world’s largest and most influential space interest group, announces that its LightSail solar sail spacecraft will reach space on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch in 2016. The announcement was made during a live webcast on July 9th.

“It’s fantastic that at last we have a launch date for this pioneering mission,” said Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye The Science Guy. “When I was in engineering school, I read the book about solar sailing by my predecessor, Society co-founder Louis Friedman. But the dream of sailing on light alone goes back much further.”

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NASA Selects 18 Proposals for Asteroid Redirect Mission Studies

In this concept image, the robotic vehicle deploys an inflatable bag to envelop a free-flying small asteroid before redirecting it to a distant retrograde lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)
In this concept image, the robotic vehicle deploys an inflatable bag to envelop a free-flying small asteroid before redirecting it to a distant retrograde lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 18 proposals for studies under the Asteroid Redirect Mission Broad Agency Announcement (BAA).  These six-month studies will mature system concepts and key technologies and assess the feasibility of potential commercial partnerships to support the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, a key part of the agency’s stepping stone path to send humans to Mars.

The agency is working on two concepts for the mission. The first concept would fully capture a very small asteroid in free space and the other would retrieve a boulder off of a much larger asteroid. Both concepts would redirect an asteroid mass less than 10 meters in size to orbit the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft launched on the Space Launch System (SLS) would rendezvous with the captured asteroid mass in lunar orbit and collect samples for return to Earth.

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NASA Looks to Lasso an Asteroid

Illustration of an asteroid retrieval spacecraft in the process of capturing a 7-m, 500-ton asteroid. (Image Credit: Rick Sternbach / KISS)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Media reports are indicating that President Barack Obama’s budget will propose that NASA spend $105 million next year to begin a program to capture an asteroid and bring it back to a Lagrangian point near Earth where astronauts would be able to visit it using the Orion spacecraft beginning in 2021.

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Reactions to President’s FY 2013 NASA Budget Request

Commercial Spaceflight Federation

On Commercial Crew Program: Today, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomed the strong continued support for commercial spaceflight in the new NASA FY2013 budget. Congress and the Administration have consistently identified commercial providers as the most cost-effective and reliable source for routine flights to low-Earth orbit, including transportation of cargo and NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. As recognized by a wide range of industry executives, scientists, and former NASA astronauts, among others, the Commercial Crew program is the quickest path to return Americans to orbit on American rockets.

Read full statement….

On the Space Technology Program: Today, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomed the strong support for NASA’s Space Technology program in the Fiscal Year 2013 proposed budget. The Space Technology program is NASA’s investment in the future; by developing technologies to improve all aspects of NASA’s operations, it ensures that NASA stays at the forefront of space exploration and scientific research. The technologies it develops will also improve quality of life on Earth, sustain America’s global economic competitiveness, enable the NASA missions of the future and create high-tech jobs across the country.

Read full statement

The Planetary Society

The U.S. Administration is proposing a budget for Fiscal Year 2013 that would force NASA to walk away from planned missions to Mars, delay for decades any flagship missions to the outer planets, and radically slow the pace of scientific discovery, including the search for life on other worlds.

NASA’s planetary science program is being singled out for drastic cuts, with its budget dropping by 20 percent, from $1.5 billion this year to $1.2 billion next year. The steep reductions will continue for at least the next five years — if the Administration’s proposal is not changed. This would strike at the heart of one of NASA’s most productive and successful programs over the past decade.

Read full statement

National Space Society

While falling short of the recommended levels needed for a “space program worthy of a great nation” as proposed by the Augustine Committee in 2009, the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2013 budget plan for NASA does spare the agency from significant overall cuts. The National Space Society (NSS), with its goals of creating a spacefaring civilization and of using the resources of space for the betterment of life on Earth, is guardedly optimistic about portions of the budget while calling for increased support for others.

“This budget for NASA reflects the realities we’re unfortunately now facing: ‘flat is the new up,’ and, while continuing to advocate for increased funding, we’ll have to work hard with what we have to achieve our goals,” said NSS Executive Director Paul E. Damphousse. “That being said, we will push the Administration, Congress, and NASA to meet these goals. The programs of record must come in on schedule and on budget; support for commercial spaceflight must be unwavering; and our Mars program, while undergoing restructuring, must still strive to make upcoming launch windows with relevant missions.”

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)

“Despite repeated assurances from NASA and White House officials that the SLS and Orion are ‘key elements of our future strategy for human space exploration’, vehicle development for the heavy lift SLS rocket and the Orion capsule is cut by hundreds of millions of dollars. These reductions will slow the development of the SLS and the Orion crew vehicle, making it impossible for them to provide backup capability for supporting the space station. The Administration remains insistent on cutting SLS and Orion to pay for commercial crew rather than accommodating both.

“I will once again work with my colleagues in the Congress to ensure NASA receives the funding, consistent with law passed by Congress and signed by the President, needed to preserve our leadership in space and open the doors to future exploration and missions of discovery.”

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
(Released Feb. 9, 2012)

“Today I met with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to express my dismay over widespread reports that NASA’s latest budget proposes to dramatically reduce the planetary science program, and with it, ground breaking missions to Mars and outer planetary bodies like Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, and to inform him of my vehement opposition to such a move.

“America’s unique expertise in designing and flying deep-space missions is a priceless national asset and the Mars program, one of our nation’s scientific crown jewels, has been a spectacular success that has pushed the boundaries of human understanding and technological innovation, while also boosting American prestige worldwide and driving our children to pursue science and engineering degrees in college.

“As I told the Administrator during our meeting, I oppose these ill-considered cuts and I will do everything in my power to restore the Mars budget and to ensure American leadership in space exploration.”











Planetary Society Wants for 30 Percent of NASA Budget for Science

Thirty Percent for Science:
Planetary Society Calls for Increased Investment for the Future

The Planetary Society has called on the U.S. Administration to rebalance NASA’s portfolio of programs and missions so that Science is given 30 percent of the agency’s budget. “Science is the best place to invest in NASA,” Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye said, “In this era of constrained budgets, we must invest in areas with the greatest possible returns.”

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Lou Friedman Visits The Space Show


This week on The Space Show with David Livingston….

1. Monday, January 9, 2012: 2-3:30 PM PST: We welcome back Dr. Louis Friedman. Dr. Friedman is the Executive Director Emeritus of the Planetary Society and is the Program Director for The Planetary Society LightSail program which focuses on solar sails.

2. Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 7-8:30 PM PST: We welcome back Dr. Bruce Cordell with updates to his work with Maslow Windows and the evidence supporting a new space development age. Visit his website for more information: http://21stcenturywaves.com.

3. Friday, January 13,2012: 9:30-11AM PST: We welcome Dr. Perry G. Ballard of the DOD Payloads Office, JSC. Dr. Ballard will be talking with us about secondary payload launch opportunities, student launches, cubesats and more.

4. Sunday, January 15, 2012, 12-1:30 PM PST: We welcome Kevin Forsyth on the Delta 2 history. Visit his excellent Delta 2 historical website at http://kevinforsyth.net/delta/vehicle.htm.











NASA Budget Reaction: Where’s the Beef? Edition

Reactions are beginning to come in concerning the President’s budget proposal for NASA. Highlights thus far:

  • Commercial Space Federation is very pleased
  • The Planetary Society’s Bill Nye is channeling Clara Peller (NOT in a good way)
  • Aerospace Industries Association is wondering where the “Sputnik moment” is in this budget

Statements are reproduced after the break. I’ll update this page as reactions come in. Check back regularly.

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