Cal Poly hosted a test of the LightSail 2, a revolutionary solar powered space vehicle, in the Bonderson Projects Center. The test was a full scale check to ensure that the satellite is ready for its launch into space. Science advocate Bill Nye, CEO of the project’s sponsoring organization The Planetary Society, was present at the test, and students filled the halls and walkways to catch a glimpse of it all.
“The test was very successful,” said Jordi Puig-Suari, a professor of aerospace engineering and founder of CubeSat. “Only a couple of minor issues were encountered and they will be fixed before flight.”
Hopes are high for the success of LightSail 2. Its predecessor, LightSail 1, had a very successful launch in May 2015, but only performed the deployment sequence rather than actual flight. LightSail 2, on the other hand, will attempt a full-scale flight within Earth’s orbit. The Day in the Life test brought LightSail 2 one step closer to that goal, and one step closer to the Planetary Society’s ultimate goal of reaching far off stars.
Cal Poly is the primary ground station for LightSail testing and has been critical for the success of the program as a whole. Cal Poly was involved in the creation of the craft’s on-board computer. “Cal Poly’s involvement has been very important in developing our Cube Sat program,” said Alex Saunders, an electrical engineering student involved with the program. “Our relationship with the LightSail team has brought a lot of visibility to our program and really helped to bring more people into our lab.”
Repetitive testing to find the problems before launch is critical, Puig-Suari explained. “This is exactly why we do these tests,” he said.
Nye affirmed the importance of these results. “It was a successful test because we discovered another problem,” he said. LightSail will continue to partner with Cal Poly for testing, ensuring smooth sailing once it reaches space.