The LightSail spacecraft, which happens to be an experimental solar sail of the Planetary Society, has gone silent within just a few days of being launched. According to the engineers involved in the project, the only way of getting out this mess is a manual reboot.
The project’s engineers believe that the spacecraft suddenly became unresponsive when orbiting the Earth due to certain issues in the Linux-based flight software of the experimental craft. According to reports obtained from reliable sources, the problem resulted in shutting down of the craft’s automated telemetry chips.
Bill Nye, who is widely referred to as “the Science Guy”, is the CEO of the nonprofit space advocacy group. In a promotional video published some time back, Nye noted that the outer space don’t have anyone who possesses the ability to press the reset button.
This is a big problem for the space scientists. To date, not a single attempt of initiating a reboot sequence from the ground has been successful. However, scientists are still hoping that this experimental spacecraft of the Planetary Society will be successful in rebooting all by itself if a charged particle flying in deep space manages to strike an electronic component with complete accuracy.
It’s true that the chances of such a particle hitting an electronic component with complete accuracy are not very high. However, according to Jason Davis of the Planetary Society, such incidents are not uncommon.
We have seen scientists write off the $50 billion spacecraft Progress 59 as a loss when it didn’t respond to their communication attempts after being launched. For those who don’t know: Progress 59 belongs to the Russian space agency and was launched in April.
In spite of becoming silent within just a few days of being launched, the LightSail spacecraft has not yet been written off.
On the other hand, the majority of the CubeSats of Cal Poly underwent a reboot after being hit by a charged particle within a very short span of time. Scientists planned Project LightSail to follow a famous notion of astrophysicist Carl Sagan; the notion talks about sailing through the space after being driven by solar propulsion. The idea was introduced by Sagan way back in the mid-70s.