Solar Winds – the Future of Space Traveladmin
“The ability to sail across the cosmos, powered by the energy of the fun, is finally becoming a reality,” The New York Times reports.
On Tuesday, engineers unfurled the sails of a satellite that was first imagined approximately 400 years ago. LightSail 2 is the result of a crowdfunded solar sail project from The Planetary Society and aims to become the first spacecraft to orbit the Earth propelled completely by sunlight, or, more specifically the momentum of the photons the sunlight is releasing.
“There is a limitless supply of solar pressure,” aeronautics professor and LightSail’s mission manager Dave Spencer said. This supply of pressure would not only make this form of space travel more efficient, it could possibly eliminate the need for fuel completely.
“This is still one of the most feasible pathways to have real interstellar space travel in the future,” Sasha Sagan, writer and daughter of astronomer and Planetary Society co-founder Carl Sagan, said.
LightSail 2 is the first steerable solar sail to be launched into orbit around Earth, outfitted with a momentum wheel that allows the Planetary Society’s engineers to guide LightSail 2’s sails. The ability to steer the sail will help the engineers on the ground to ensure it is exposed to enough solar wind to extend its orbit.
“If everything goes perfectly, we ought to be able to raise the apogee [furthest point in orbit] by about 1,640 feet per day,” Dr. Spencer said.
Learn more about LightSail 2 and the LightSail project here.