Early on in the LightSail mission, things weren’t going well for the team behind the test mission for a revolutionary spacecraft called LightSail. The test mission was hit with a software glitch early on that kept the LightSail from being deployed. Eventually the reason that the spacecraft was in safe mode was found to be power levels lower than expected in the Earth’s shadow and higher than expected in direct sunlight.
Once that issue was worked out, the LightSail deployed and the primary mission goal of deploying the sail was met. Before the team of engineers was able to get a picture from the opposite side cameras on the spacecraft, the radios aboard LightSail began transmitting a continuous nonsensical signal and the spacecraft stopped responding to commands.
The last communication with the LightSail spacecraft was on Wednesday June 10 at 11:29 p.m. EDT. The spacecraft continued to transmit the garbled signal. It’s unclear at this point what happen to cause the garbled communications. What is clear is that the spacecraft burned up on reentry to the Earth’s atmosphere likely at around 1:23p.m. EDT. The team behind the mission plans a full-fledged solar sailing demonstration in late 2016.