Planetary Society Scientists Plan LightSail CubeSat Deployment for July 23 at Cal Poly

What: Cal Poly students will assist a team of scientists from The Planetary Society for the long-anticipated solar sail deployment of the LightSail 2 CubeSat, a citizen-funded project to test the concept of harnessing photons from the sun to propel a spacecraft. After a successful launch in June from the Kennedy Space Center, aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, LightSail 2 has been cleared for a possible sail deployment attempt Tuesday, July 23. The solar sail is set to deploy during its Cal Poly ground station pass, starting at roughly 11:22 a.m. (with a backup pass starting around 1:07 p.m.).

When: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 23
Where: Engineering IV (No. 192), Room 106
Parking: H-2A, H-2C

More Information: LightSail 2 is The Planetary Society’s historic, crowd-funded spacecraft mission to demonstrate solar sailing around the Earth. After launch, Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye said: “We are advancing space science and exploration. We are democratizing space. We are innovating.” LightSail 2, which is about the size of a loaf of bread, contains four triangular-shaped Mylar pieces that will unfurl to form a square sail the size of a boxing ring (18.5 feet on each side). Nye has called it a potential game changer for lower-cost interplanetary space travel.

Cal Poly students also helped prepare LightSail 2, which is testing “flight by light.” Since LightSail 2’s release into space, students have assisted TPS scientists in performing critical ground station operations in advance of the mission’s critical step of unfurling its silver sail. Cal Poly and The Planetary Society have worked together on the LightSail project (and its two spacecraft) since 2010. Cal Poly is the primary ground station for the mission, assisted by counterpart facilities at Georgia Tech, Purdue, and Kauai Community College in the Hawaiian Island chain.

A large contingent from The Planetary Society will be on campus in Mission Control for the unfurling, which sets the stage for the primary goal of the mission: Altering LightSail 2’s circular orbit into an elliptical course that will send it to a higher altitude above the Earth. Sail deployment will take about three minutes; altering the craft’s orbit will take place over a month.

Live reporting:
— Video from mission control in Cal Poly will be live-streamed at

Additional LightSail 2 resources:


About The Planetary Society
The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. With the mission to empower the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration, the non-governmental society’ international membership makes it the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a longtime member of The Planetary Society's Board, serves as CEO.

Contact: Jay Thompson
805-756-5186 or 805-235-0955

July 18, 2019

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