A privately-funded, solar-powered spacecraft could launch in 2016

In what looks like Count Dooku’s personal spaceship in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, the small spacecraft that you see above also comes with a very of solar-powered sail that it can call its own. This small aircraft was specially designed to harness the power of the sun so that it will be ready to launch on board a SpaceX rocket a couple of years from now. Known as the LightSail, this happens to be an unmanned satellite-like craft that will feature a solar sail that ought to go some lengths in assisting this solar-powered sail to be a reality when one leaves the earth for a mission aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy.

The Planetary Society’s LightSail, an unmanned satellite-like craft known as a solar sail, aims to reach orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in two years, said the group’s leader Bill Nye. The foot-long (30-centimeter) spacecraft with its four, ultra-thin Mylar sails may then undertake a journey around the cosmos, powered only by the constant pressure exerted by sunlight. “It is so thrilling to see this grand endeavor setting the date for its pioneering mission above our planet,” Nye said in a statement. The project is funded by private donors and members of the Planetary Society, which describes itself as the world’s largest space group and was co-founded by famous American astronomer Carl Sagan in 1980. Solar sails have generated excitement due to their potential to travel to other stars and galaxies, without the need for fuel. “Closer to home, solar sails may give us access to unique orbits for vital Earth science and space weather missions,” said Jennifer Vaughn, the chief operating officer of the Planetary Society. LightSail aims to go beyond low Earth orbit, where the International Space Station circles the Earth, into medium Earth orbit.

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