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Carl Sagan's legacy can fly next week – working sunburn



  Artist Concept for LightSail 2 Above Earth
Enlarge / The LightSail 2 artist's concept over the Earth.

Josh Spradling / Planetary Society

Next night Monday, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket will launch a group of 24 US Air Force satellites. Known as the mission of the Space Testing Program-2, the rocket will deposit its payloads in three different orbits. Perhaps the most intriguing satellite will be thrown at the second stop ̵

1; circular orbit 720 km above the ground. This is the LightSail 2 spacecraft of the Planetary Society

After a week in space, letting the satellites located in this orbit separate, LightSail 2 will drop out of his suitcase in open space. Approximately bread size, the 5kg satellite will eventually unfold in a 4m long and 5.6m tall sunshade. The carpet material constituting a canvas has a thickness of only 4.5 microns or about one tenth of the thickness of human hair.

This experiment, which will attempt to harness the photons' inertia and floats through space, is the culmination of decades of work from the Planetary Society. "This is from the very beginning, to Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Lou Friedman," Bill Ny, Chief Executive Officer, said in an interview with Ars. "W is an inheritance that was with us by the founders – it's just an intriguing technology because it reduces the cost of anywhere in the solar system."

Beginning with Sagan

While he promoted space and science in the 70s in TV shows and books, Sagan sometimes supports the benefits of sunscreen. Theoretically, continuous photon acceleration, albeit much more gradual than chemical propulsion, can push the spacecraft to other stars because this acceleration is continuous. Initially, he hoped to launch a solar canvas to catch up with Khaley's comet in 1986, but that did not happen.

After Sagan founded The Planetary Society in 1980 to support government support for space exploration, he and others continued to push for the technology. But since the US government was focusing on more traditional ways of exploration – the space shuttle program and the chemical-driven probes in the external solar system – the planetary society ultimately took its cause alone.

  Vibration testing at the Air Force Research Laboratory. "src =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/20181204_lightsail2-after-vibration-testing-980x653.jpg "width =" 980 "height =" 653
Click to enlarge [LightSail2subjectedtohealthchecksaftervibrationtestingattheAirForceResearchLaboratory

The Society began work on the Cosmos 1 project for a solar canvas demonstration. It was an ambitious project that included eight 600-square-foot solar blades, and from an initial height of 800 kilometers, it aimed to increase its orbit by 50 km or 100 km for a month in space.

Unfortunately, Cosmos 1 has never reached space. He flew in 2005 to the Volna rocket, which was launched by a Russian submarine in the Barents Sea. The first stage of the missile failed and the payload was lost. The planetary community built a lighthouse named LightSail 1, launched in 2015 on board the Atlas V rocket. This version, however, had several technical problems, which led to improvements to Light Sail 2. This last project costs about $ 7 million paid by members of the public.

LightSail 2

This version of the solar cloth will have a total area of ​​32 square meters and the planners will deploy a canvas about two weeks after the launch if everything goes well. (More details on what will happen here can be found here). By using an inertial wheel to regulate the orientation of its sailing, the spacecraft will essentially try to demonstrate that it can "catch" the stream of photons emanating from the Sun. Success will come when the spacecraft is able to pick up its orbit for over a month.

Then what? Japan's space agency, JAXA, launched a 2010 sun-tanning demonstration called IKAROS, and NASA took off with a very small demon named NanoSail-D in 2010. But since then, governments have largely ignored science-fiction technology, which can provide much cheaper means of propulsion around the solar system and beyond. Too much fiction, obvious and too little science.

Nye hopes that the solar mission of the planetary society will put a little more science behind the technology, which will lead to further technical developments by NASA or another international space agency because of its potential to democratize space travel. "This is the most romantic space of space technology," he said. "We really sail in the stars, it's fantastic."


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