by Brooks Hays
Pasadena, Calif. (UPI) Jun 1, 2015
More than a week after it went silent, its software having crashed, the LightSail is communicating once again with mission controllers.
"Our LightSail called home! It's alive!" Bill Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society, the group responsible for the mission, said in a press release. "Our LightSail spacecraft has rebooted itself, just as our engineers predicted. Everyone is delighted. We were ready for three more weeks of anxiety."
The craft stopped talking to ground controllers more than a week ago after a software glitch caused its system to crash. But over the weekend, the craft sent two data packs back to Earth, suggesting the CubeSat successfully rebooted.
LightSail's handlers are now looking into when to deploy the craft's giant solar sails. The mission is a test run in anticipation of a larger 2016 launch. Engineers at the Planetary Society are anxious to see if the CubeSat -- a mass-market toaster oven-sized box of a satellite -- is able to successfully deploy its sails and render power from high speed solar particles.
Scientists are hopeful that solar sail technology will have significant implications for the future of deep space travel. Carrying large amounts of fuel into space is expensive and complicated. Harnessing the kinetic power of solar particles would both simplify space travel and make it a whole lot cheaper.
Solar sails have previously been tested in space, but the Planetary Society -- and their super light sails made of Mylar -- hope their efforts will further advance the technology.
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