You can track Greta Thunberg’s journeys as she cruises across the high seas

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg takes off from Plymouth, Britain  on August 14, 2019.
Teenage environment activist Greta Thunberg removes from Plymouth, Britain on August 14,2019

Image: ANDY RAIN/ EPA-EFE/ Shutterstock.

By Mark Kaufman

Greta Thunberg is bound for the high seas.

On August 14 the teenage environment activist set sail from Britain to New York City aboard the Malizia II, a technologically-advanced racing sailboat that creates electricity utilizing photovoltaic panels and undersea turbines. Next month, Thunberg will speak at the U.N. Climate Action Top(and Mashable’s Social Good Top), before cruising on to a essential U.N. environment conference in Chile.

You can track her development throughout the Atlantic Ocean on the ship’s website here(there might be a load time).

” The science is clear,” Thunberg stated in a declaration after announcing the seafaring journey. “We should begin flexing the [carbon] emissions curve steeply downwards no behind 2020, if we still are to have a possibility of staying below a 1.5 [Celsius] degrees of international temperature rise.”

The sailboat's location on August 14, 2019.

The sailboat’s area on August 14, 2019.

To avoid the worst effects of climate change, scientists internationally advise curbing Earth’s warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial Transformation temperatures; though with still-rising carbon emissions, this specific objective is now far out of reach, if not almost difficult to accomplish

Airplanes have an outsized function in emitting carbon, as airliners contribute over 2 percent of overall worldwide carbon emissions– more than a lot of nations in the world. ” Somebody flying from London to New york city and back produces roughly the very same level of emissions as the typical person in the EU does by heating their home for an entire year,” the European Commission notes

So Thunberg, who has taken a year off of school to promote for environment action, is totally preventing flight.

Earth’s climatic co2 emissions are now skyrocketing CO2 levels haven’t been this high in at least800,000 years— though most likely countless years What’s more, carbon levels are now increasing at rates that are unprecedented in both the geologic and historical record

Skyrocketing CO2 emissions.

Skyrocketing CO2 emissions.

Image: scripps Organization of Oceanography

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International shipping industry under the microscope as whale death toll grows

HALIFAX — The shipping industry is under increased scrutiny after two cargo ships were fined for sailing too fast through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the rising death toll among endangered North Atlantic right whales has been partly blamed on collisions with vessels.

There have been eight deaths reported since early June, and examinations of five of the carcasses showed three of them had injuries consistent with ship strikes — a leading cause of death for these rare mammals.

“While the shipping industry has been overwhelmingly compliant in respecting these (speed limits), there are still some exceptions, and Transport Canada is examining all reported cases of non-compliance,” the department said in a statement Friday.

Sonia Simard, a spokeswoman for the Shipping Federation of Canada, stressed the industry’s level of compliance has been impressive, given the number of vessels that move through the gulf.

“It is our understanding that the compliance rate is over 98 per cent for 2019 and was equally high in 2018,” Simard, the federation’s director of legislative and environmental affairs, said in an email.

Of the more than 2,200 large vessels that transited the gulf’s shipping corridors between April 28 and July 25, the Canadian Coast Guard found 227 vessels had exceeded the reduced 10-knot speed limit — but after investigation three quarters of these cases were closed without fines.

Simard said many of the vessels flagged by an automated tracking system had exceeded the limit by only 0.5 knots or less.

However, another 48 cases are under review.

“We know how important it is,” Simard said in an interview. “We are dedicated to the best management measures.”

Chad Allen, the federation’s director of marine operations, said it’s important to understand how difficult it is for the crews of large ships to spot whales.

Typically, larger commercial vessels have an officer of the watch and a lookout posted on the bridge. Though they usually enjoy a commanding view of the seas, it can be easy to miss right whales when they break the surface.

“The right whale doesn’t present a big profile,” he said. “It doesn’t have a big dorsal fin.”

As well, when the whales surface to breath, the spray from their blowholes is often indistinguishable from breaking waves when the winds exceed 15 kilometres an hour — a common occurrence on the gulf.

“As the wind picks up, when they do spray, that spray gets dissipated very quickly,” said Allen.

The federation represents 70 shipping businesses in Canada, which include ship owners, operators and marine agents.

Boris Worm, a biology professor and well-known whale expert at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said marine mammal experts are aware of the challenges faced by the shipping industry.

“Even in good conditions, when it’s easier to see the whales, it’s hard to judge which way the whale is moving,” he said. “It becomes hard to guess which way to turn.”

David Browne, director of conservation with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, said it may be time to start talking about moving the shipping lanes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“It’s a massive undertaking,” he said. “You have to convince all of the countries of the world.”

That’s exactly what happened in late 2002, when the International Maritime Organization approved Ottawa’s plan to shift routes in the Bay of Fundy to reduce collisions with right whales. The altered lanes force ships to divert several kilometres around zones where right whales are known to gather.

“Unfortunately, the whales also moved and mostly left the Bay of Fundy and started moving into the gulf,” Browne said.

On Friday, Transport Canada said it had issued $7,800 speeding fines to two cargo vessels: the Americaborg, a Dutch container ship, and the Atlantic Spirit, a bulk carrier registered in Hong Kong.

A third vessel, cited for a $6,000 fine on July 18, was the Big Eagle, a 52-metre luxury yacht. And a fourth vessel — the bulk carrier Milos Warrior — was “sanctioned” on May 30 for an alleged infraction on Nov. 3.

Allen said even if a whale is spotted before a collision, avoiding the slow-moving animals can be tough.

“A ship is similar to a car on ice — once you start the turn, it may not take immediately,” he said.

Worm said other whales, including fin and blue whales, are fast enough to avoid most ships — but right whales are bulky and slow, which is why whalers decided long ago they were the “right” whales to kill.

And even though they have good long-range hearing, the excessive engine noise in shipping lanes can leave them confused.

“Imagine yourself standing on a highway with your eyes closed and you’re trying to cross the highway — you’ll get more nervous as you hear more noise,” Worm said. “This is the situation the whales face.”

Though commercial vessels are typically equipped with radar for navigation, that technology is designed to detect metal objects with sharp angles, not the rounded, blubbery bodies of right whales.

Sonar uses underwater sound waves instead of radio waves to detect objects, but there are concerns this technology could have an impact on the whales’ communication and navigation.

“It’s not just an issue of cost,” said Simard. “It’s a mix of research and development … in the context of the biology of the whales.”

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Hate Those Floating Digital Billboards? New York Just Banned Them

New York|Hate Those Floating Digital Billboards? New York Just Banned Them

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation to outlaw the ads that “blight our shores.” But you may not have seen the last of them.

Image

CreditCreditGary Hershorn/Getty Images

Jesse McKinley

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Depending on your point of view, they are either miracles of modern marketing or a heinous eyesore on the city’s waterways.

Either way, the digital billboards that had been plowing the East and Hudson Rivers over the last several months may soon be a thing of the past, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation on Monday to ban them.

“These floating billboards are a nuisance that blight our shores and distract from the great natural beauty of our waterways,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “This action will help make our waters more enjoyable and safer for everyone.”

The governor’s action on the bill, which will be effective immediately, comes after months of complaints and legal action over the billboards, which first appeared last year and irritated the sensibilities of some New Yorkers.

But even as the governor and state lawmakers claimed victory, the company responsible for the billboards, Ballyhoo Media, remained defiant, saying it would continue operating in some form. They questioned the stringency of the ban, which prohibits any vessel with a digital billboard from “operating, anchoring or mooring in the navigable waters of the state” if they have “flashing, intermittent or moving lights.”

That definition, they argue, allows enough wiggle room to permit them to continue to float some of the advertisements, which have touted everything from Heineken to the latest Grinch movie.

Adam Shapiro, the company’s chief executive, said on Monday he was disappointed by the governor’s decision but remained “undeterred.”

“Our legal team believes these changes to the navigation law do not prohibit us from operating,” he said in a statement. “Instead they offer clarity on what we can and cannot display with our platform. As such, Ballyhoo intends to continue providing an innovative platform that encourages creativity, collaboration, and community.”

Earlier this year, New York City filed a lawsuit against Ballyhoo trying to stop the Florida-based company, arguing that the billboards were a public nuisance and safety hazard, and seeking to prevent the company from sailing the electronic billboard barges in its waters.

The city subsequently received a preliminary injunction preventing the barges from coming within 1,500 feet of the city’s shore or within view of any “arterial highway” like the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive or the West Side Highway. Settlement talks in that case are continuing.

The billboards have also been the subject of legal action in Florida, where they bob in the offshore waters of the Atlantic within view of Miami beachgoers. The Ballyhoo barges feature a 60-foot-long and 20-foot-high LED screen, visible from several thousand feet away.

In New York, the company had accused the city and state legislators of overreach, casting its fight as a First Amendment issue. (Shortly after the city filed suit in March, the company floated a billboard with this message: “Freedom is the foundation of our country.”)

The bill, which passed the Legislature in June, does allow localities to opt in if they want their residents or visitors to be pitched while staring at the sea or river way. But such an outcome seemed unlikely for opponents of the billboards, who likened the blinking barges to dangerous distraction for drivers and an ugly intrusion into the natural world.

“I believe that our riverfront is one of the last sanctuaries for New Yorkers, and should be treated as such,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, the Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the bill in Albany’s upper chamber. “We don’t need Times Square floating past us as we relax or play or take walks.”

Jesse McKinley is The Times’s Albany bureau chief. He was previously the San Francisco bureau chief, and a theater columnist and Broadway reporter for the Culture Desk. @jessemckinley

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LightSail 2 Opens Its Sails in an Early Test of Tech That May Make Interstellar Travel Possible

A photo released today showing the recently unfurled solar sails.

A photo released today showing the recently unfurled solar sails.
Image: Planetary Society

A tiny spacecraft in Earth orbit has successfully deployed its solar sails. Called LightSail 2, the craft will now use the power of the Sun to lift its orbital height even further, in what’s considered an important test of this promising means of propulsion.

LightSail 2 is a crowdfunded project run by the Planetary Society, a nonprofit space organization. The goal of this proof-of-concept mission is to test the viability of using solar sailing as a means of propelling CubeSats and other objects in space. Eventually, a massively scaled-up version of this technology could take us to the outer realms of the Solar System—and even through interstellar space—at relativistic speeds.

Artist’s conception of LightSail 2.

Artist’s conception of LightSail 2.
Image: Planetary Society

In 2015, the Planetary Society conducted a preliminary test with LightSail 1, but the version currently in space will attempt to use its solar sails to raise its orbit by a measurable amount.

On Tuesday, July 23, around four weeks after it was delivered to Earth orbit by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, LightSail 2 passed its first critical test: the deployment of its solar sails. The Cubesat itself is about the size of a toaster, but with its four triangular, razor-thin sails unfurled, the structure measures 32 square meters (340 square feet) in size.

The Planetary Society confirmed the successful deployment on its website, saying all of its “major systems are reporting nominally.” Mission controllers for the project are monitoring the spacecraft from their facility in San Luis Obispo, California.

At 2:00pm Pacific time on July 23, LightSail 2 had entered into solar sailing mode. Its momentum wheel, which works to orient the spacecraft’s position, was operating as expected, while “attitude control system data showed the solar sail was angled to within 30 degrees of its expected orientation—a promising early sign the spacecraft is tracking the Sun properly,” noted the Planetary Society.

The first images of the unfurled sail, taken by the spacecraft itself, were released earlier today in a Planetary Society tweet.

Mission controllers are still evaluating the integrity of the deployment, including a review of the spacecraft’s telemetry data. Assuming everything’s okay, LightSail 2 will start to raise its orbit by harnessing the power of the Sun.

Here’s how it works, according to the Planetary Society:

Light is made of packets of energy called photons. While photons have no mass, they have momentum. Solar sails capture this momentum with sheets of large, reflective material such as Mylar. As photons bounce off the sail, most of their momentum is transferred, pushing the sail forward.

The resulting acceleration is small, but continuous. Unlike chemical rockets that provide short bursts of thrust, solar sails thrust continuously and can reach higher speeds over time. Sunlight is free and unlimited, whereas rocket propellant must be carried into orbit and be stored onboard a spacecraft. Solar sailing is considered one possible means of interstellar space travel.

The Planetary Society is hoping to see LightSail 2 raise its orbit by a measurable amount, which shouldn’t be a problem. The spacecraft is expected to move at a rate of several hundred meters per day. The craft is currently 720 kilometers (450 miles) above the surface of Earth.

In addition to moving small satellites in orbit, large solar sails could conceivably be used to propel heavier spacecraft through the Solar System.

The Breakthrough Starshot project, for example, is envisioning a laser-powered solar sail that could be used for interstellar journeys. Incredibly, these light-propelled “nanocrafts” could travel at speeds approaching 20 percent the speed of light. At that rate, such a craft could reach our nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, in just 20 years.

Artist’s conception of IKAROS.

Artist’s conception of IKAROS.
Image: JAXA

The Planetary Society is not the first group to experiment with solar sail technology. In 2010, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully tested IKAROS, a 196-square-meter (2,110-square-foot) solar sail. Unlike LightSail 2, however, IKAROS is an interplanetary traveler, currently making its way through the inner Solar System.

Looking ahead, JAXA is planning to send a 2,500-square-meter (26,900 square foot) solar sail to Jupiter’s orbit, where it will study the gas giant’s Trojan asteroids, and then return to Earth. This project is scheduled for launch in the early 2020s.

The era of the solar sail, it would appear, is upon us.

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Impossible Foods goes to the grocery store

After receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Impossible Foods has cleared the last regulatory hurdle it faced to rolling out in grocery stores.

The company is targeting a September release of Impossible products to join its competitor Beyond Meat on grocery store shelves.

The news comes as the company said it inked a major supply agreement with the OSI Group, a food processing company, to increase the availability of its Impossible Burger.

Impossible Foods has been facing shortages of its product, which it can’t make fast enough to meet growing customer demand.

The supply constraints have been especially acute as the company inks more deals with fast food vendors like Burger King, White Castle and Qdoba to supply its Impossible protein patty and ground meal to a growing number of outlets.

Impossible Foods products are now served in more than 10,000 locations around the world.

Earlier this year, the company hired Dennis Woodside and Sheetal Shah to scale up its manufacturing operations and help manage its growth into international markets. The company began selling its product in Singapore earlier this summer.

May not only saw new executives joining the Impossible team, but a new capital infusion as well. Impossible Foods picked up $300 million in financing from investors, including Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, Google Ventures, Horizons Ventures, UBS, Viking Global Investors, Temasek, Sailing Capital and Open Philanthropy Project.

With the new FDA approval, Impossible Foods will now be able to go head to head with its chief rival, Beyond Meat. The regulatory approval will also help to dispel questions that have swirled around the safety of its innovative soy leghemoglobin that have persisted since the company began its expansion across the U.S.

Last July, the company received a no-questions letter from the FDA, which confirmed that the company’s heme was safe to eat, according to a panel of food-safety experts.

The remaining obstacle for the company was whether or not the company’s “heme” could be considered a color additive. That approval — the use of heme as a color additive — is what the FDA announced today.

“We’ve been engaging with the FDA for half a decade to ensure that we are completely compliant with all food-safety regulations — for the Impossible Burger and for future products and sales channels,” said Impossible Foods Chief Legal Officer Dana Wagner. “We have deep respect for the FDA as champion of U.S. food safety, and we’ve always gone above and beyond to comply with every food-safety regulation and to provide maximum transparency about our ingredients so that our customers can have 100% confidence in our product.”

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The Planetary Society’s crowdfunded LightSail 2 deploys its solar sail in orbit

Crowdfunded spacecraft LightSail 2 is making good on its name, after successfully unfurling its solar sail in orbit so that it can begin propelling itself using the force of light alone. The sail’s Mylar surface reflects photons from the Sun, accumulating velocity gradually thanks to the additive effect of countless sub-atomic impacts. The team confirmed sail deployment initiated at 11:47 AM PT (2:47 PM ET), and full sail deployment completed at 11:50 AM PT (2:50 PM ET).

LightSail 2 got its ride to space with the Falcon Heavy launch on June 25, sharing a ride with a variety of payloads, including NASA and Air Force experiments. The spacecraft is the product of The Planetary Society, a nonprofit organization devoted to the advancement of space exploration that’s led by Bill Nye . Its goal is to study solar sailing in practice — a technology whose conception goes back centuries, but whose actual field use is extremely limited, with only a few examples existing previously, including JAXA’s IKAROS mission from 2010.

The sail’s total propulsion power is astonishingly small, despite its size (it’s about the size of a boxing ring) — it provides about as much power as a housefly landing on your hand. But it also will never theoretically run out of fuel, and can gradually increase its speed over time to very high velocities thanks to the friction-free environment of the vacuum of space.

“Things are great, things are nominal,” explained The Planetary Society’s chief scientist, Bruce Betts, on a live stream of the sail’s deployment, indicating that everything is to plan so far. The Planetary Society will attempt to get back images from the deployment the next time the craft is within range of a ground station, and we’ll update when those become available.

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Crowdfunded spacecraft LightSail 2 snaps amazing photos ahead of solar sail deployment

LightSail 2 may still have at least a few days to go before it begins its primary purpose, by unfurling the solar sail it has on board and finding out more about propelling a spacecraft using only the force of photons, but it’s not wasting any time on its orbital voyage. New photos from the crowdfunded spacecraft, which is operated by The Planetary Society, provide a stunning high-resolution look at the Earth from its unique vantage point.

The spacecraft just got a firmware update that corrected some issues with its orientation control after a test of its solar sailing mode, absent the actual use of the sail itself. The patch was uploaded successfully, according to The Planetary Society, and the spacecraft overall is “healthy and stable” as it stands. The earliest possible date for solar sail deployment is July 21, which is this Sunday, but that’ll depend on the mission team’s confidence in it actually being ready to unfurl and use successfully.

20190717 ls 2 mexico

LightSail 2’s development was funded in part via a successful crowdfunding campaign run by the Bill Nye-led Planetary Society, and continues to seek on CrowdRise funding for its ongoing operation. Its goal is to test a spacecraft’s ability to fly powered only by the force of photons from the Sun striking a solar sail constructed of Mylar. This method of space-based transportation is extremely slow to get started, but thanks to the inertia-free medium of outer space, it could be an extremely energy-efficient way for research craft to travel long distances.

It launched on June 25 as part of the shared payload of SpaceX’s most recent Falcon Heavy launch.

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South Korea to send naval unit to Strait of Hormuz: newspaper

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea plans to join a U.S.-led maritime force in the Middle East by sending a naval unit, which includes a destroyer, to help guard oil tankers sailing through the Strait of Hormuz, a South Korean newspaper reported on Monday.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have increased since Washington pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

Attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran in recent months further soured ties, prompting U.S. officials to call for allies to join a planned maritime security mission.

The Maekyung business newspaper, citing an unidentified senior government official, said South Korea had decided to send the anti-piracy Cheonghae unit operating in waters off Somalia, possibly along with helicopters.

Seoul’s defense ministry said the government was exploring measures to protect its ships in the area but no decision had been made.

“It is obvious that we have to protect our ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz, isn’t it? So we’re considering various possibilities,” deputy ministry spokesman Ro Jae-cheon told a regular news briefing on Monday.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week Washington had asked South Korea, Japan, France, Germany, Australia and others to take part.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton visited Seoul last week and discussed the issue with senior officials, including the defense minister, but Ro said there was no official request made during that meeting.

The Cheonghae unit has been stationed in the Gulf of Aden since 2009, working to tackle piracy in partnership with African countries as well as the United States and the European Union.

The 302-strong unit operates a 4,500-ton destroyer, a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter and three speed boats, according to South Korea’s 2018 defense white paper.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Paul Tait

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LightSail 2, Pushed by Sunlight, Raises Its Orbit by 10,500 Feet in Just Two Weeks

LightSail 2 over Baja, California.

LightSail 2 over Baja, California.
Image: Planetary Society

Two weeks after entering solar sailing mode, the Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 spacecraft has managed to raise its orbit by nearly 2 miles, in an important test of this promising new means of propulsion.

LightSail 2 unfurled its 32-square-meter (344-square-foot) solar sail on July 23, around one month after it was deposited into low Earth orbit by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. At the time, the spacecraft’s apogee, or high point of its orbit, was just shy of 726 kilometers (451 miles). But now, a mere two weeks after entering into solar sailing mode, LightSail 2’s apogee is now at 729 kilometers (453 miles), a gain of nearly 3.2 kilometers (2 miles), according to the Planetary Society.

It’s still early days, but things are going smoothly.

“Mission operations is proceeding very well,” Dave Spencer, LightSail 2 project manager, told Gizmodo earlier today. “The spacecraft is healthy, and we are communicating with the spacecraft several times each day.”

The point of this mission is to test the viability of solar sailing, in which photons from the Sun bounce off a large solar sail, giving the spacecraft a small but continuous boost. Eventually, this form of propulsion could be used to move small satellites in orbit, or even enable interstellar travel.

To maintain optimal performance, mission controllers need to orient the position of the sail relative to the Sun. To that end, the spacecraft performs two 90-degree turns each Earth orbit, which it does with a momentum wheel—basically a flywheel that moves along a single axis. When in solar sailing mode, the sails are positioned to be broadside, or perpendicular, to the Sun to maximize the number of photons hitting the sail. To prevent LightSail 2 from tumbling, and thus losing control of the sail orientation, the sail is oriented to move edge-on relative to the incoming solar photons. It takes about 90 minutes for LightSail 2 to make a complete orbit of Earth.

“For the first 10 days after sail deployment, we were in solar sailing mode about two-thirds of the time,” explained Spencer. “The momentum wheel was reaching its saturation limit—its maximum rotation rate—a couple of times per day, at which point we would slow down the wheel and use magnetic torque rods to remove angular velocity from the system. This is called ‘detumble’ mode, and it’s used to reduce the angular rates about each axis of the spacecraft. Early on, we were in detumble mode about one-third of the time, including time during the sunlit part of the orbit.”

On August 3, the Planetary Society team uploaded a software patch that enables the spacecraft to autonomously switch into its detumble configuration when it’s inside Earth’s shadow. The means LightSail 2 can now stay in solar sailing mode throughout the sunlit portion of each orbit to “maximize the time spent solar sailing,” explained Spencer.

“We also did some fine-tuning of the sail control algorithm to refine the turn rate of the spacecraft, and reduce the tendency of the spacecraft to overshoot the targeted orientation at the end of a turn,” said Spencer.

Indeed, a graph compiled by Justin Mansell, a Ph.D. student at the University of Purdue who’s involved with the LightSail 2 mission, illustrates this issue rather nicely.

Sail orientation of LightSail 2 during 3 orbits on July 28, 2019.

Sail orientation of LightSail 2 during 3 orbits on July 28, 2019.
Image: Planetary Society

Looking the graph, the red lines represent the commanded sail orientation (i.e. the idealized sail configuration), in which 0 degrees represents a perfectly perpendicular orientation to the Sun, while 90 degrees represents the parallel, edge-on orientation. The plot lines are actual data taken on July 28 during three orbits, and show the sail orientation overshooting its target when approaching 90 degrees. LightSail 2 is currently working with a margin of error around 30 degrees, which is okay, but it could be better—hence the updated algorithm, uploaded to LightSail 2 on August 5.

“Both of these updates have been effective in improving the sail control performance,” Spencer told Gizmodo. “Based upon spacecraft telemetry, over the past two days our 90-degree turns have been much more crisply done, and the momentum wheel has not reached its saturation limit. We look forward to seeing the result of this improved sail control in the orbit evolution over the coming days,” he said.

A video produced by Mansell shows LightSail 2’s orientation with respect to the Sun during a single orbit on July 28, 2019, which happened prior to the recent software updates. The red line shows the direction of the Sun, while the blue line shows the direction of the local magnetic field. Jason Davis from the Planetary Society describes the video:

In the first half of the video, LightSail 2 attempts to fly edge-on into the solar photons, maintaining a 90-degree angle with the Sun, as indicated by “feather” mode. The gaps between data points are not interpolated so as to not misrepresent the data, which makes it look like the sail is jumping around more than it actually is. In the second half of the video, LightSail 2 is in “thrust” mode, trying to keep its long axis to the Sun at about zero so the sail can get a push from sunlight.

As the video shows, there are times where the sail behaves beautifully. And when that happens, the mission team sees excellent orbital performance. On LightSail 2’s best day so far, the spacecraft raised its apogee by about 900 meters, showing the promise of flight by light for small spacecraft—the main goal of the program.

Interestingly, the Planetary Society team also conducted simulations to see how the performance of a randomly tumbling spacecraft would compare to actual recorded flight data. Not surprisingly, the controlled orientations resulted in faster rates of lift compared to a tumbling spacecraft.

Spencer told Gizmodo that all LightSail 2 mission performance, including the orientation control, will eventually be documented in conference papers and journal articles compiled by the Planetary Society mission team. A primary goal of the mission, he said, will be to provide this data to the solar sailing community, which includes NASA’s Near Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) mission—a proposed solar sail mission to an asteroid.

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