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Dec 26, 2019

What a year it's been for The Planetary Society!

Dr. Bruce Betts' favorite pic of LightSail!
Dr. Bruce Betts' favorite pic of LightSail!

As if the successful launch of LightSail 2 last June wasn't a reward in and of itself, The Planetary Society has garnered not one but two awards based on LightSail's invention and innovation.

On November 21, we made TIME Magazine's list of 100 Best Inventions of 2019, with LightSail earning praise for "critical proof of concept" with this year's mission  The publication judged each contender for the prestigious list based on key factors including originality, creativity, influence, ambition, and effectiveness.

Then, on December 4, LightSail 2 became the Grand Award Winner for the most impressive aerospace innovations of 2019, this time from Popular Science.  Read all about it, and tell your friends and neighbors that you helped fund this amazing project! This wouldn't have happened without our tens of thousands of backers and supporters - these accolades belong to you, and to all of our members and donors around the world. 

Thank you for your continued support, and keep looking up!  Here's to more of the beauty, joy, and passion for space in 2020.


From our space family to yours,

Robin Young, Donor Relations Manager

Sep 30, 2019

Can You Hear It? Signals from LightSail!

LightSail 2 over the Caribbean
LightSail 2 over the Caribbean

When LightSail 2 recently flew south of The Planetary Society's Pasadena, California headquarters, CEO Bill Nye and other staff members stepped outside to listen.

 Every 45 seconds, LightSail 2 also squawks Morse code of its radio call sign, WM9XPA. 


On 9 September 2019, LightSail 2 testing and operations engineer Justin Foley, who is also a Planetary Society member, brought his amateur radio equipment to The Planetary Society for a LightSail 2 flyover. As Nye and others watched, Foley's radio antenna picked up LightSail 2's Morse code signal and piped it through laptop speakers for everyone to hear.

Radio enthusiasts looking for tips on tracking LightSail 2 can visit the "see and track" section of our LightSail 2 Mission page. 

Jul 1, 2019

LightSail 2 has launched! Mission Ops begin July 2!

Watching the launch at the Saturn V Center.
Watching the launch at the Saturn V Center.

A note from Robin Young, Donor Relations Manager for The Planetary Society:

We know that many of you who donate through Global Giving are also members of The Planetary Society, which means this project belongs to you, every member, backer, and donor who have supported this mission.  You have our most profound thanks.  Go LightSail 2!




LightSail 2 is officially in space!

The Planetary Society's solar sail CubeSat lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida on 25 June at 02:30 EDT (06:30 UTC). The late-night launch came courtesy of SpaceX's triple-booster Falcon Heavy rocket, which was carrying 24 spacecraft for the U.S. Air Force's STP-2 mission.

During its ride to orbit, LightSail 2 was tucked safely inside its Prox-1 carrier spacecraft. The Falcon Heavy upper stage's payload stack released Prox-1 about an hour and 20 minutes after liftoff, at an altitude of roughly 720 kilometers. Prox-1 will house LightSail 2 for 1 week, allowing time for other vehicles released into the same orbit to drift apart so each can be identified individually. LightSail 2 deployment is set for 2 July; our first chance to hear from the spacecraft will be that day.


"After that spectacular nighttime launch, the flight team is ready to operate the LightSail 2 spacecraft," said LightSail 2 project manager David Spencer. "We will be listening for the radio signal in a week, following the release of LightSail 2 from Prox-1."


Bruce Betts, Planetary Society chief scientist and LightSail 2 program manager, added, "After years of hard work we are ecstatic with the launch and looking forward to doing some solar sailing." 

About 500 Planetary Society members and supporters were on hand at the Kennedy Space Center Apollo-Saturn V Center to watch their crowdfunded spacecraft take flight. Sound from the Falcon Heavy's 27 engines rumbled through the viewing area, as the rocket blazed high into the sky before starting its arc out over the Atlantic Ocean. Both of the rocket's side boosters flew back to Cape Canaveral for upright landings, creating sonic booms that delighted the raucous crowd.

SpaceX's live feed from mission control in Hawthorne, California followed the rocket's center booster as it attempted to land on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You. The booster’s exhaust plume briefly appeared on camera before apparently crashing into the ocean. The landing was not a requirement for mission success.

LightSail 2 team members will soon converge at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California, where the spacecraft’s mission control is located. Once LightSail 2 is released from Prox-1 on 2 July, the team will spend several days checking out the CubeSat’s systems before commanding its dual-sided solar panels to deploy. Following that, the spacecraft's solar sails will be deployed, roughly 2 weeks in total from launch day



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