An idea that was theorised more than four centuries ago, is now proven to be working in the real world. LightSail 2, the revolutionary spacecraft by The Planetary Society that does not require fuel to travel in space, has been deployed into the earth’s orbit.
Essentially, it has a massive shiny sail, that helps it propel further. The sail works with the photons emitted by the sun, essentially sunlight, hitting the shiny surface, which then makes the spacecraft move in space. It sounds fictional, but pictures prove otherwise.
The spacecraft is fitted with two fish eye lens cameras that capture images of the spacecraft moving. The spacecraft’s sails have been deployed and it is successfully moving, as you can see from images here.
Its aluminised Mylar sail is what can largely revolutionise space exploration, that currently depends upon non-newewable fuel, which can only take it so far. If the mission of LightSail 2 to orbit the earth is indeed successful, we could develop spacecrafts based on that theory to explore solar systems beyond Mars.
Although that may take a long time, as without fuel and sunlight as its only energy source, the LightSail 2 will move at an extremely slow pace. However, what we do in the next few years could still benefit the next generation, and be the foundation of longer space travel.
The lesser talked about factor is also the sustainability aspect of a spacecraft running on sunlight. The fewer resources needed, the lesser mining, which reduces the harm caused to our environment.
In the world’s race to space, LightSail 2 is playing a small, yet crucial role in furthering innovation for space travel. It may not seem much, as the force of sunlight to push a heavy spacecraft is almost negligeble, but it is still a step towards innovation with sustainability.
Least to say, we are very excited to see how this experiment gives way to the next generation of spacecrafts in the coming decades. Watch Bill Nye explain this technology in The Planetary Society’s video below:
Another space manufacturing company that is redefining space manufacturing is Made In Space. They recently got contracted by NASA to demonstrate 3D printing of spacecraft parts in space. This too is a massive step towards bringing sustainability to space manufacturing and exploration industries, as the fuel and space needed to propel spacecrafts into the orbit currently, is extremely high.