The Planetary Society’s citizen-funded LightSail 2 solar-propelled spacecraft is set to launch on June 22 on board a SpaceX Falcon Heavy. It will attempt the first controlled solar sail flight in Earth orbit. LightSail 1 successfully completed its test flight mission in 2015. LightSail® is aimed at testing “solar sailing” technology for CubeSats, which comprise many Amateur Radio satellites. According to the Planetary Society, solar sailing uses reflective sails to harness the momentum of sunlight for propulsion. “One disadvantage to CubeSats is that they typically lack propulsion, which limits their range of applications,” The Planetary Society says. “LightSail will demonstrate the viability of using solar sailing for CubeSats.”
Scientific collaboration between The Planetary Society and Russia led to the creation of Cosmos 1, a solar sail spacecraft launched aboard a repurposed ICBM. But test flights in 2001 and 2005 failed due to problems with the launch vehicle. The first successful solar sail was launched by Japan in 2010, when the IKAROS spacecraft was deployed from a Venus-bound space probe.