LightSail Launch Has a Date!
LightSail 2 Launch Update
Yesterday, Spaceflight Now published a story about STP-2, the Air Force-sponsored mission that will carry LightSail 2 into space. The article notes the launch is scheduled to occur during a 60-day period starting on June 13. At least a couple of our social media followers were quick to notice this update, and we can confirm it’s true!
Naturally, our CEO, Bill Nye, is thrilled. Here’s a quote he provided:
"Our remarkable LightSail 2 is about to set sail. We’ll fly higher and farther than LightSail 1. We’ll get a great many more pictures and performance data. To add to the excitement, we will leave Earth aboard a spectacular Falcon Heavy rocket. A few of us from the Society were at the Cape a few weeks ago for the Falcon Heavy’s first flight. It was fantastic. It started with the Earth-shaking lighting of the 27 first stage engines, and wrapped for us on the ground with the thrilling return of the side boosters. We witnessed the future of rocketry. I can’t wait for the future of sunlight-propelled spacecraft. Thanks for your support, everyone!"
And here’s a quote from our chief scientist, Bruce Betts:
"We are excited about this launch information, and our spacecraft is sealed up and ready to ship. We also recognize this is a 60-day launch period and launch information can change, and we will be prepared for any eventuality."
LightSail 2 spent the majority of 2017 in storage, waiting for the Falcon Heavy to complete its inaugural flight. After that happened on February 6, preparations for STP-2 began moving more quickly. The Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque requested we deliver LightSail 2 there in mid-March so that it can be integrated with its carrier spacecraft, Prox-1. Prox-1 and LightSail 2 are scheduled to ship to Florida around the end of April.
As for LightSail 2, it's still buttoned up for flight. Shortly before it's due in Albuquerque, the team will integrate the spacecraft into its P-POD, the spring-loaded carrier system used to deploy CubeSats into space.
What This Means for Backers
For those who plan to go to the launch, this means it's time to begin making preparations for this date. However, it is important to be keenly aware that launch dates are notorious for slipping. For that reason, they are usually announced as being "no earlier than" the beginning of the launch window. In this case, As we noted, SpaceX has announced that the STP-2 mission has a 60 day long launch window, so really LightSail could launch anytime between June 13 and the middle of August.
In the coming weeks, we will post further updates here to help guide your planning. If you begin to make arrangements, you will want to make sure that you maintain flexible dates on tickets for flights and such. Watch for further details!