Space travel breakthrough: Spacecraft which could cover 3.6m miles per day passes test

The Lightsail 2 craft is an experiment to prove the practical application of a controlled ‘solar sail’, which has the ability to far outstrip traditional rocket engines. The revolutionary mission was launched on June 25 and developed by ‘The Planetary Society’, based in the US. The voyage became the first ever to demonstrate solar sailing and used energy from the Sun to orbit Earth.

The tiny 10x10x30cm spacecraft was powered with propelled sunlight bouncing off its mirrored sails.

The exploitation used thin plastic sheets to gather the momentum from the Sun.

Most notably the spacecraft was able to manoeuvre without the need for fuel or engines.

Bruce Betts LightSail program manager and Planetary Society chief scientist hailed the groundbreaking mission.

Mr Betts said: “We’re thrilled to announce mission success for LightSail 2.

“Our criteria was to demonstrate controlled solar sailing in a CubeSat by changing the spacecraft’s orbit using only the light pressure of the Sun, something that’s never been done before.

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“The LightSail 2 mission is a game-changer for spaceflight and advancing space exploration.”

The LightSail 2 is a crowdfunded mission and involved donations from 50,000 people from across the world.

Jennifer Vaughn Planetary Society CEO said the mission can be a “paradigm shift” to get more people involved in space missions.

Ms Vaughn said: “LightSail 2 proves the power of public support.

“This moment could mark a paradigm shift that opens up space exploration to more players.

“It amazes me that 50,000 people came together to fly a solar sail.

“Imagine if that number became 500,000 or 5 million. It’s a thrilling concept.”

However, Lightsail is not the first solo-powered spacecraft to reach the other side of the sun.

Japan's Ikaros, which was carried by a Mitsubishi H-2A rocket, made the journey in May 2010.

Ikaros was helped on its journey by a 20-metre sail.

Reporting on the mission, Japan's space agency said: "There will be the world's first solar-powered sail craft employing both photon propulsion and thin-film solar power generation during its interplanetary cruise."

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