The concept of a spacecraft with a solar sail is not new, but just recently the idea got a breath of new life. After several hope crushing issues as the craft was operation, the team decided to finish the test as fast as possible, hopefully this coming Sunday.
The project, known as LightSail, is funded and operated by the nonprofit organization kown as the Planetary Society.
While you may not think that sunlight has the force to move anything, photons actually have a small force they impart onto something when they collide with an object. Make an object large enough to take multiple collisions, and you know have a fuel free transport method.
At more or less the size of a loaf of bread, the LightSail payload was one of the 10 payloads that were on a rocket launched from an unmanned U.S. space plane.
After being launched, things went downhill for the LightSail. After two days, the craft’s compute crashed due to a software flaw. After eight days of darkness, a stream of charged particles forced the computer to restart. On Wednesday, the solar panels on the craft were opened, preparing for the actual deployment of the sails. However, another problem with the batteries knocked the craft offline.
Ever since, the craft has been silent.