Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Planetary Society's LightSail has gone silent
by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) May 28, 2015

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

The scientists managing the Planetary Society's LightSail are holding their breath as they wait for their experimental Cubesat to come back to life. A software glitch caused the small satellite to freeze up last week, and so far, attempts to reboot the device have failed.

LightSail is a small satellite that was launched last week in an effort to demonstrate the potential of solar sail-powered space travel. The toaster oven-sized craft is outfitted with a tightly furled sail made of a super-light metallised film called Mylar. If deployed, the sail will cover over 322 square feet, capturing and harnessing the energy of solar particles.

But right now, the sail's deployment is in doubt.

The satellite's software crashed as a result of an only recently discovered glitch. LightSail was programmed to beam back a data-packed spreadsheet-like file every 15 seconds. But with each successive transmission, the file grows. Ultimately, the file grew too big for the operating system to handle, causing the software to crash.

Now, the system needs a reboot. Engineers have beamed up the signal for a reboot, but the frozen Cubesat isn't responding. As it passes over ground beacons, scientists will continue to issue reboot signals, but a manual reboot is likely the only option.

Obviously, no one is flying into low Earth orbit to flip the CubeSat's power switch. But there is another possibility.

"Since we can't send anyone into space to reboot LightSail, we may have to wait for the spacecraft to reboot on its own," Jason Davis, the digital editor for The Planetary Society, explained in a recent update. "Spacecraft are susceptible to charged particles zipping through deep space, many of which get trapped inside Earth's magnetic field. If one of these particles strikes an electronics component in just the right way, it can cause a reboot."

While it sounds like a miracle is necessary, researchers suggest this random reboot is actually rather common, and that many CubeSats experience a particle-induced reboot within the first three weeks.

The original plan was to have LightSail to deploy its sails 28 days after separating from the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 501 rocket that blasted-off on Wednesday, May 20. A three-week particle-induced reboot would be just in time to stick with the original plans.

Once the sails are deployed, atmospheric drag will pull CubeSat out of orbit and back toward Earth. But as it is, the satellite will remain safely in orbit for at least another six months -- plenty of time for additional troubleshooting.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Space Tourism, Space Transport and Space Exploration News

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

NASA's CubeSat Initiative aids solar sail tests in space
Washington DC (SPX) May 22, 2015
With help from NASA, a small research satellite to test technology for in-space solar propulsion launched into space Wednesday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, as part of the agency's CubeSat Launch Initiative. The Atlas V sent the U.S. Air Force's X-37B space plane on its fourth mission, which also is carrying NASA's Materials Exposure and Technolog ... read more

China, Russia plan joint landing on the Moon

Google Lunar X-Prize meets Yoda

NASA's LRO Moves Closer to the Lunar Surface

European Space Agency Director Wants to Set Up a Moon Base

Science Drives NASA's Journey to Mars

NASA Begins Testing Mars Lander for Next Mission to Red Planet

Supersonic decelerator gets a lift to prepare for launch

The Supreme Council of Parachute Experts

McCarthy-Smith SPACE Act passes with broad bipartisan support

Boeing Awarded First Commercial Human Spaceflight Mission

Planetary Society's LightSail has gone silent

NASA Invites Innovative Early-Stage Technology Proposals

China Plans First Ever Landing On The Lunar Far Side

China ranked 4th among world space powers

3D printer making Chinese space suit parts

Xinhua Insight: How China joins space club?

Roundworms have the Right Stuff

ISS module relocation makes way for Commercial Crew spacecraft

NASA Begins Major Reconfiguration of International Space Station

ISS Partners Adjust Spacecraft Schedule

Recent Proton loss to push up launch costs warns manufacturer

SpaceX cleared for US military launches

Ariane 5's second launch of 2015

Air Force Certifies SpaceX for National Security Space Missions

Weather forecasts for planets beyond our solar system

Astrophysicists offer proof that famous image shows forming planets

Astronomers detect drastic atmospheric change in super Earth

New exoplanet too big for its star

Patent for Navy small space debris tracker

MaterialsLab improves how we conduct research on Earth and in Space

Deep Web Search May Help Scientists

New computational technique advances color 3D printing process

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.