LightSail had already experienced a number of setbacks that were classified as “near death experiences,” but once again the spacecraft has gone silent. This is just the latest in a string of near-death experiences that have been plaguing the sunlight-powered spacecraft since it made it into space. The spacecraft has powered down a number of times, making some members of the team skeptical about its potential to survive. The controversial spacecraft was unique because while it was powered by sunlight, it wasn’t actually powered by the sunlight itself.
Rather LightSail was being powered by the energy that was coming from that sunlight. An interesting twist that started as a scientific dream decades ago. However, the problems at this point seem to be mounting as the craft continues to wake up and shut down repeatedly. The concerned team is wondering and rushing now to finish projects and attempt to make as much of this mission as can be made. At this juncture though, even in a best case scenario it would appear as though the outlook is hazy.
Everything from a deploying error, to battery glitches, have been thought of since the failure was first noticed on Wednesday. However, it isn’t clear what is causing the failure, and the team knows that there is a ton riding on this experimental mission. A couple other options, in terms of what scientists believe might be at play, cover everything from launch issues that caused a blockage, or even a failure before it even makes it to orbit.
It needs to reach orbit, and that is the big component at play right now. The team believes that if it reaches orbit, it will then have enough sun energy to continue its way and power the spacecraft throughout the mission. That being said though, if the craft doesn’t get to orbit and fails to power back on – then the mission is over, and failure is certain.
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That’s why the team is hopeful at this point that the problem is a “chronic under voltage condition,” which could be treated by simply getting more light and power when it reaches orbit. Until then though, this is something that will remain a mystery, and remain something that scientists on the team work to understand – as time continues to go on, as the craft remains dark and down.