LightSail 2 is a historic spacecraft that has been in the works at The Planetary Society for the last decade. The spacecraft carrying LightSail 2 was expected to launch on June 22, but that launch has been delayed and will now happen no earlier than June 24, 2019. LightSail 2 will head into orbit as part of the Air Force’s Space Test Program-2 mission.
The rocket that will lift the spacecraft into orbit is a Falcon Heavy; the mission will liftoff at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Lightsail 2 is the first small spacecraft propelled by sunlight alone. The Planetary Society crowdfunded the mission with thousands of enthusiasts from around the world, helping to foot the bill.
The goal of LightSail 2 is to prove that spacecraft can be propelled by sunlight alone, a free and unlimited source of energy. The spacecraft has a thin solar sail about the size of a boxing ring that will deploy once it is in orbit.
The goal of the mission is to become the first spacecraft to raise its orbit using sunlight. Light has no mass but has momentum that can be transferred to other objects. The scientists hope to use that momentum for propulsion of the spacecraft.
The mission will demonstrate the viability of using solar sailing as a propulsion method for CubeSats. LightSail 2 is a small spacecraft that is enclosed inside Prox-1, a spacecraft designed to demonstrate close-encounter operations with other spacecraft. Prox-1 is supposed to deploy LightSail 2 seven days after its launch. The first few days after launch will be used to perform checks on the spacecraft. The sail material is mylar, and it will take about a month for sunlight to increase the orbit of LightSail 2 by a measurable amount.