The LightSail missions, both LightSail 1 and LightSail 2, were developed by The Planetary Society to provide a functional demonstration of light propulsion for spacecraft. LightSail 1 demonstrated that the sail itself could be safely launched and deployed upon atmospheric insertion. Building on this success, LightSail 2 demonstrated the ability to raise the apogee of its own orbit through the sole use of sail deployment and solar sailing.

Each CubeSat was built on a 3U standard bus and weighed approximately 5kg at launch. The craft were powered by 4 solar arrays which ran the length of the 3U bus and could be deployed to ensure that they did not interfere with the boom release or the sail deployment.

Launch and Deployment:

LightSail 1 was launched on an Atlas V vehicle on May 20th, 2015.  It was placed in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) as planned; however, a software problem caused initial sail deployment to fail. A well timed radiation induced system reboot allowed ground control to reestablish contact with LightSail 1 and the sail was properly deployed on June 7th, 2015. Due to the atmospheric drag in LEO LightSail 1 was not actually able to perform any solar sailing and it decayed on June 15th, 2015. Despite this, the demonstration of sail deployment following launch allowed researchers to quickly apply their progress to LightSail 2.

LightSail 2 was launched June 25th, 2019, just over 4 years later, onboard a Falcon Heavy launch vehicle as part of Prox-1. The satellite deployed from Prox-1 and flawlessly deployed its sail on July 23rd, 2019 and over the course of 1 month demonstrated successful solar sailing by raising its orbit by nearly 2 kilometers

Sources and Additional Information:

Full NameLightSail 1,2
StatusLightSail 1: Decayed
LightSail 2: Active
Launch DateLightSail 1: May 20th, 2015
LightSail 2: June 25th, 2019
NORAD IDLightSail 2: 44420
Downlink FrequencyLightSail 2: 437.025 MHz

NanoRacks External Platform

The NREP-1 mission was a piece of equipment designed to act as a gateway between the inside of the International Space Station (ISS) and the extreme environment of space.

Craft Overview:

NREP-1 was designed to test the capabilities of of advanced electronics and materials. Once section of the structure would be exposed to the vacuum of space in order to test the durability and functionality of various test objects.

Results of the Mission:

The mission was ultimately unsuccessful.


On August 19, 2015, the Japanese HTV-5 was launched with NREP-1 aboard. In the Spring of 2016, NREP-1 was installed on slot 4 of the Japanese Experiment Module Exposed Facility (JEM-EF).

Sources and Additional Information:

Full NameNanoRacks External Platform
Launch DateAugust 19, 2015
Principal InvestigatorJud Ready


ALICE is the first nanosatellite developed by the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), an Air Force graduate engineering school at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) in Ohio. The primary goal of ALICE is to evaluate a pair of advanced Carbon Nanotube (CNT) arrays as a proposed propulsion system for nanosatellites. The nanotubes in question were developed in partnership with AFIT, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).

ALICE is a 3U CubeSat provided by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Colony CubeSat program . The 3U CubeSat is rated at a size of 10 cm x 10 cm x 34 cm and a mass of ~ 5 kg. The bus is a Colony 1 class bus manufactured by Pumpkin Incorporated. The CubeSat is equipped with four deployable solar arrays which run the length of the bus along with body-mounted panels to supply power for the sensor compliment and testing payload.

ALICE was assembled, fabricated, and tested at AFIT by a multi-department team of professors, students, and technicians. The team was comprised of both military personnel and civilians, and included students from many Ohio universities. GTRI and USAFA also provided students in each institution the opportunity to participate in the development of new spacefaring technologies and contribute to the future of electric propulsion.

The ALICE mission is controlled by an independent ground station at AFIT. This effort by AFIT comprises and end-to-end mission plan and is the first of many planned in the coming years.


ALICE was contained as a secondary payload on December 6, 2013 aboard an Atlas-5-501 launch vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. The primary payload on this flight was the classified NROL-39reconnaissance mission of the National Reconnaissance Office. The launch provider was the United Launch Alliance.

Sensors and Payload:

Engineers in the Electrical Engineering Department at AFIT developed a unique payload to directly expose the Carbon Nanotube arrays to the space environment while protecting an identical control array within the satellite. The arrays, which are each approximately 1 square cm in size, can be  controlled from the AFIT ground station to study their behavior when both active and inactive. The payload experiment utilizes a design from engineers at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) to measure the number and speed of electrons produced by the CNT arrays. This sensor device is known as iMESA (Integrated Miniaturized Electromagnetic Analyzer) and has a mass of 150 g and a power requirement of 0.5 W.

The carbon nanotube arrays are excellent conductors and their geometry makes them ideal electron emitters. Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) produced the CNT arrays using unique technology that grows bundles of vertically-aligned nanotubes embedded in silicon chips. In future versions of electrically-powered ion thrusters, electrons emitted from the carbon nanotube tips may be used to ionize a gaseous propellant such as xenon. The ionized gas would then be ejected through a nozzle to provide thrust for moving a satellite in space.

The satellite payload is highlighted by a pair of carbon nanotube arrays that will be used to demonstrate carbon nanotubes as electron emitters for future spacecraft propulsion that would use the generated electrons to ionize gaseous propellant for ejection. Each CNT array is about 1 square cm in size and contains as many as 50,000 nanotubes.

Existing ion thrusters rely on thermionic cathodes, which use high temperatures generated by electrical current to produce electrons. These devices require significant amounts of electricity to generate the heat, and must consume a portion of the propellant for their operation.

If the CNT arrays can be used as electron emitters, they would operate at lower temperatures with less power — and without using the limited on-board propellant. That could allow longer mission times for satellites, or reduce the weight of the micropropulsion systems.

Sources and Additional Information:

Full NameAFIT LEO iMESA CNT Experiment
Launch DateDecember 6th, 2013
Downlink (MHz)