After encountering quite a few near-death experiences, the small experimental spacecraft LightSail has finally come back to life on Saturday afternoon. The spacecraft, which is primarily famous for propelling itself using sunlight reflected on a shiny sail, will get the sail deployed onto it on Sunday. The team in charge of the spacecraft is currently in a big rush for finishing the mission before anything else goes wrong with the LightSail.
LightSail is a spacecraft financed and operated by the Planetary Society. For those who don’t know: the Planetary Society is a non-profit organization that carries out different projects for promoting space exploration.
The chief executive of the society William Sanford, who is fondly referred to as “Bill Nye the Science Guy”, stated that although the recent turn of events has been exciting, the situation is quite “anxiety producing” for his organization.
The technology that uses sunlight for traversing the solar system in the same manner as mariners used to do for crossing oceans on sailing ships is definitely not something new. However, it can surely be categorized as a technology that hasn’t been used as widely as some other technologies.
It’s true that the momentum provided by light particles is not significantly high, but the force remains continuous providing the vehicle propulsion without fuel.
LightSail was one of the ten payloads carried by the rocket launched last month for taking an unmanned space plane of the US Air Force into orbit. As mentioned above, LightSail is small in size and thus could be packed into a box as big as a loaf of bread.
After being deployed successfully, LightSail worked well for a couple of days. This was followed by a computer crash due to a sudden software error. The craft was silent for eight consecutive days, after which a high-speed charged particle from the space accidentally came in contact with the memory of the computer and restarted it.
The next problem surfaced this Wednesday; the craft’s batteries suffered a glitch when the spacecraft’s solar panels were flipped up for deployment of the sail. This incident forced the team to stop as there was no current available for moving forward with the mission. So LightSail again became silent. Now, the Planetary Society is hoping that there will not be any further problem during Sunday’s deployment.