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Planetary Society to launch solar sail demonstrator in May
Posted: Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 7:43 AM ET (1243 GMT)
LightSail-1 illustration (TPS) The Planetary Society announced Monday that it will launch a small spacecraft designed to test solar sail technology in May. The nonprofit organization said it first LightSail spacecraft, a 3U CubeSat, will fly as a secondary payload on an Atlas 5 rocket launching in May from Cape Canaveral. The spacecraft will spend four weeks in orbit testing out its systems before deploying a set of Mylar sails on booms four meters long. Atmospheric drag will keep the sail from generating thrust, but will test systems for a second spacecraft, planned for launch in 2016, that will fly in a higher orbit. The organization ultimately hopes to show that solar sails, which generate thrust from the small but continuous pressure on the sails from sunlight, can be used for cost-effective solar system exploration.
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