The LightSail 2 mission is designed to ignite in the Earth’s atmosphere

The LightSail 2 mission is designed to ignite in the Earth’s atmosphere

The LightSail 2 satellite took this photo on June 11, 2022, showing parts of Madagascar and Mozambique.

The LightSail 2 satellite took this photo on June 11, 2022, showing parts of Madagascar and Mozambique.
Fig: Planetary Society

In the last three years, a small BreadLarge meal size spacecraft The wings have been shown solely to give a sense of proportion Low orbit of the earth. LightSail 2 is more than life expectancy And it turned out that solar cells could actually be used for flight The spacecraft but its journey around our planet ends sadly, as the Earth’s atmosphere descends to the spacecraft where it will eventually burn out. Atmospheric fires.

Planetary communities LightSail 2 Launched in June 2019 And revealed 344 square feet (32 square meters) A month later the solar cell. Just two weeks after spreading its wings, the LightSail 2 gained two miles (3.2 km). The experiment is a success. But for the past few months, LightSail 2 has been losing ground Price It now averages about 390 miles (627 km)About 446 miles (718 km) downAt the beginning of the mission, According to the planetary community.

Scientists behind the mission predict that Light Cell 2 will enter the Earth’s atmosphere in the next few months, but they do not have an exact date. Upon re-entry, the spacecraft will continue to move As soon as it will create an energy pressure wave before it, the air around it heats up and burns into a LightSail fire.

Solar cells pass photons from the sun, causing small particles The movement that Operating a spacecraft; such as The photon collides with the LightSail wings, causing the spacecraft to move further away from the sun. If a spacecraft is able to cross the Earth’s atmosphere by drag, it could potentially reach very high altitudes.

Throughout its mission, LightSail 2 has enjoyed some ups and downs (literally). Orbit Sometimes lost A few meters high per day And sometimes achieved A few meters. But after a three-year journey around the earth, the experience is worth it by the Started To experiment A heavy drop As a result of multiple in height Factors

This graph shows the average height of LightSail over time (shown in blue).

This graph shows the average height of LightSail over time (shown in blue).
Example: Planetary Society

As the spacecraft descended, the density of the atmosphere increased rapidly, resulting in the formation of the atmosphere drag. LightSail crashed into the atmosphere Particles As it travels Speed Reached 20,000 miles per hour (32)000 km / h), Causing the spacecraft to slow down. “Our case is much tougher than most spacecraft because our field of operation is much larger than the mass of a spacecraft.”He wrote in One of the Planetary Society Statement. “Imagine throwing a stone rather than throwing a piece of paper. The drag of the atmosphere will stop the paper much faster than throwing a stone.

Surprisingly, the Sun also worked against the LightSail 2. When the sun is most active It heats up Earth’s upper atmosphere, Causes it to expand to a higher altitude. in the beginning Mission, the Sun goes through a bit of a delay as part of its 11-year cycle, but our host The star recently For this he resumed his activity The maximum duration of the sun. it has Caused the atmosphere to form Depth At high altitudes, Even Reaching the spacecraft, the LightSail 2 causes a downpour.

The third factor that causes LightSail to die is more human than cosmic. The mission was damaged Due to a communication breakdown Equipment at the ground station. At the time of the communications shutdown, the team was unable to send information into space, which caused her boat to crash. Annoyingly Libran – always rational, easily hurt emotionally, very passionate and maybe a little too intense.

LightSail 2 though Soon it will meet its fire death, the legacy of the spacecraft will still be alive. Orbit Encouraged several other missions, Including NASA NEA Scout Mission to a planet near Earth (Scheduled to begin in August), NASA’s Advanced Comprehensive Solar Cell System Testing cell boom materials in Earth orbit (Scheduled to launch in mid-2022)And Of NASA Solar Cruiser ((Scheduled for 2025 launch). The solar cell cycle, it seems, Getting closer quickly.

More: LightSail 2, pressed by the sun’s rays, lifts its orbit to 10,500 feet in just two weeks

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