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Keplero's dream: the "Lightsail-2" solar sail works

The mission is a success - VIDEO

It will be possible to perform controlled flights in space thanks to solar energy: this is confirmed by the functionality of the "Lightsail-2" solar sail, brought into space on June 25 (see AVIONEWS), at 720 kilometers of altitude, inside "Prox -1", one of the 24 satellites launched with a "Falcon Heavy". The sail has made a small change in the course of its orbit, due to the pressure exerted by the particles of sunlight around the Earth.

On August 2nd Bruce Betts, a program manager of the "Planetary Society", an American non-profit organization that conceived the project, funded through "crowdfunding", declared : "On behalf of tens of thousands of people from all over the world who are are united to support the dream of solar sails, we are thrilled to declare the success of the "Lightsail-2" mission.

Project manager Dave Spencer, said that during August the "Planetary Society" experts will continue to raise the apogee of the orbit, which is the furthest point from Earth. Meanwhile, the perigee (the closest point of the orbit) should slowly lower, to the point where the resistance exerted by the earth's atmosphere will be greater than the thrust of the solar sail. The small satellite will then start an orbit ever closer to the atmosphere, in which it will return within a year. The expert said: "I would like to see if we can still control the re-entry point by somehow modifying the orientation of the solar sail. The return would be a fascinating and unique experiment never been attempted by anyone".

In 1607 Keplero realized that it could be possible to exploit the light of the Sun as an engine, having noticed that the tails of comets had to be created by solar energy. Today, 400 years later, a new era has officially begun in the propulsion of space exploration probes.

Below, a video on solar sail by the Italian Space Agency:

RC3 - 1223548

AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency