Further update: Lightsail has made contact with Earth and is in orbit, but suffered a minor glitch with its gyros.
Update: The launch was a success, no word yet on the condition of the payloads, but it's a good start!
Video of the launch:
Today will, weather permitting, see the launch of an Atlas V rocket, carrying the Planetary Society's experimental Lightsail 1 spacecraft and the US air force's miniature space shuttle, the X37-B. The launch will be from the Cape Canaveral airforce station, at around 14:45 UTC, 7:45 AM PDT, or 10:45 AM EDT.If you're in the area it should be visible for many miles, and loud. Very, very loud. For the rest of us it will be quieter, and broadcast online, live (link at the end of this post)
|Above: The secretive X37-B on the landing strip. Courtesy of the US airforce.|
|Above: The Atlas V rocket, loaded up and ready to go. Courtesy of the Planetary Society.|
Above: Fraser Cain talks us through how solar / light sails work.
Lightsail 1 is testing technologies for a new kind of propellant less space engine, the, uh, lightsail. More on that here.
The X37B is on a mission that is largely secret, but which will include:
- Testing a new form of ion engine (Called a Hall Effect Thruster)for military satellites
- Testing new potential spacecraft materials in space