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LightSail 2 uses sails to surf the sun's rays

A spaceship the size of a loaf of bread has finally turned into an awning.

On Tuesday (July 23) at approximately 14:47. EDT (1847 GMT), an engine aboard the small LightSail 2 cube cast, deployed the 32-square-meter awning of the mission, which is about the size of a boxing ring. LightSail 2 is the passion project of The Planetary Society, and the Space Interests Organization wants to show that surfing with solar energy is a viable propulsion technology for spacecraft.

"We are very pleased to have crossed this great milestone," said Jennifer Vaughn, chief operating officer of the Planetary Society, during a livestream about the deployment of the spacecraft's control center in California. "We have a sail now, it's time to sail! … We are now embarking on the very difficult process of sailing in space."

Related: Sailing on Sunbeams: LightSail 2 to the High

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the first successful awning demonstration flight in May 201

0 – Ikaros – and called it a "solar night". This project, which launched its sail in June 2010, proved that a thin membrane attached to a spacecraft body can propel the vehicle forward by absorbing the momentum from the collision of the light particles emitted by the sun, the so-called photons. collects. NASA launched a small cube sail called Nanosail-D in November 2010.

Since then, awning is stuck in the mud. The Planetary Society's goal for the Lightsail 2 mission was to change that, and orbiting the Earth with photons for a year.

"There is every indication that # LightSail2 has deployed its awning as planned, and we will now confirm that the deployment was successful by downloading images." The Planetary Society shared via Twitter. In another tweet that followed shortly thereafter, the organization said they would "begin to down-link images on the remaining tracking passes to confirm this."

LightSail 2 aired its first views of the earth earlier this month (July 7)) and The Planetary Society confirmed that the spacecraft took photos during the maneuver.

Before, the LightSail 2 mission ran smoother than that of its predecessor, where just two days later a software issue occurred, launching into orbit around the Earth.

According to the JAXA website, the awning concept goes back nearly a century, and sun-sailing is a passion of the Planetary Society's founders, who look back several decades.

Here is an early LightSail model for size comparison next to a loaf of bread.

[Picture credits: Justin Jang / The Planetary Society]

"Our first solar sailing project really started about 20 years ago with our solar sail Cosmos 1. This mission would have been the very first space test of a solar" Sail "said Vaughn during a teleconference on June 20, the day before the launch of LightSail 2 aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket took place in the early morning of June 25.

The science communicator Bill Nye, of the The first time I heard of awnings in the classroom of the famous astronomer Carl Sagan at Cornell University 42 years ago, during the conference call, he remembered his teacher's enthusiastic speech on the idea of ​​awning.

If all else fails Well, LightSail 2 could prove the ability to use photons to bring other versions of this technology deep into the solar system yew.

Follow Doris Elin Salazar on Twitter @salazar_elin . Follow us on Twitter @SpaceTotcom and Facebook .

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