Bill Nye's LightSail 'Froze' In Space Two Days After Launch

By Peter R - 30 May '15 12:06PM

The Planetary Society's test LightSail went silent two days after it was launched last week.

A software glitch in the sail's operating system caused its unresponsiveness. The sail has frozen, not unlike a frozen computer that requires reboot, Planetary Society said in a post earlier this week. The team knew about the flaw but before it could fix it, the sail froze and stopped communicating with ground stations.

"Late Friday, the team received a heads-up warning them of the vulnerability. A fix was quickly devised to prevent the spacecraft from crashing, and it was scheduled to be uploaded during the next ground station pass. But before that happened LightSail fell silent. The last data packet received from the spacecraft was May 22 at 21:31 UTC," the society said.

The team has attempted reboot of the spacecraft during some of the 37 ground station passes of the spacecraft, without success. It is now counting on charged particles in space to strike the spacecraft and cause a reboot.

"Spacecraft are susceptible to charged particles zipping through deep space, many of which get trapped inside Earth's magnetic field. If one of these particles strikes an electronics component in just the right way, it can cause a reboot," the post reads.

LightSail is propelled by the pressure of solar radiation. The experimental spacecraft launched last week is a test run for the LightSail 1 mission scheduled in April 2016.

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