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LightSail Spacecraft Goes Silent In Orbit, Requires Reboot

LightSail Reboot

The Planetary Society’s experimental solar sail, known as the LightSail spacecraft, has gone silent while orbiting the Earth after having been launched just last week and the project’s engineers have since indicated that the only option left is a manual reboot.

The spacecraft became unresponsive as a result of what the project’s engineers believe to be a vulnerability inside of the experimental craft’s Linux-based flight software. CNET indicated in a report that the glitch caused LightSail’s automated telemetry chips to go silent over the Memorial Day weekend.

Engineers believe a vulnerability inside the spacecraft’s Linux-based flight software halted its operations — causing the craft’s automated telemetry chirps to go silent over the Memorial Day weekend.

As the nonprofit space advocacy group’s CEO, none other than Bill Nye “the Science Guy,” noted in a promotional video published earlier this year, there isn’t anybody “in outer space to push that reset button.” This creates a problem, as attempts thus far to initiate a reboot sequence from the ground have proven unsuccessful, however, there’s still hope that the experimental spacecraft could reboot on its own if one of the charged particles flying through deep space strikes an electronics component in just the right way.

There’s nobody in outer space to push that reset button

While the notion of such a particle striking an electronics component in just the right way might sound unlikely, the Planetary Society’s Jason Davis notes in a blog post on the nonprofit’s website that such an occurrence is not uncommon.

So unlike the Russian space agency’s $50 billion Progress 59 spacecraft which was written off as a loss after it failed to respond to communication attempts following its launch back in April, the LightSail has not been written off — at least not yet.

In the case of Cal Poly’s CubeSats, most experienced a reboot as a result of being struck by a charged particle within just a few weeks.

Project LightSail began with astrophysicist Carl Sagan’s famous notion of sailing through space propelled by solar propulsion. An idea which Sagan first introduced to the world at large back in 1976.

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