Solar spacecraft LightSail-2 sends first signals to Earth

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The LightSail-2 spacecraft has sent the first signals back to Earth. Messages were also sent back to the satellite. According to the makers, the LightSail is now functioning properly.

LightSail-2 was launched two weeks ago aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket from SpaceX. The spacecraft has since been launched into orbit. On Thursday, LightSail sent the first telemetry messages to the ground station at the California University of Polytechnic. Other ground stations at the Universities of Georgia and Purdue have also received the first signals, write researchers from The Planetary Society, the makers of the solar craft.

At the moment the shade sails of LightSail-2 have not yet unfolded. That will happen in the coming days. The researchers will first check whether they see any problems in the cameras and the folding mechanism of the satellite. For now, the researchers are in any case very happy that they have made contact with the small cubesat: “We are happy that after years of preparation we finally have an operational spacecraft!”, the makers write.

LightSail-2 is a spacecraft consisting of a large sail of 32 square meters. It captures photons from the sun and uses them as propulsion instead of rocket motors. In this way, the makers of The Planetary Society want to control satellites in a more sustainable way in the future. Light sails could also be used to fly to distant planets or even other star systems without having to carry a large amount of fuel. A first LightSail already went into space in 2015, and although the makers temporarily lost communication with the craft shortly after launch, the mission turned out to be a success.

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