NanoSail-D in orbit (artist depiction).jpg
Operator NASA
Bus 3U CubeSat
Mission type Technology
Launch date 20 November 2010
01:25 UTC
Carrier rocket Minotaur IV/HAPS
Launch site Kodiak LP-1
Orbital decay ~110 days
Mass 4 kilograms (8.8 lb)
Orbital elements
Regime Low Earth[1]
Semimajor axis 7,014.59 kilometers (4,358.66 mi)
Eccentricity 0.0021431
Inclination 71.9761°
Altitude 638 kilometers (396 mi) average
Apoapsis 623 kilometers (387 mi)
Periapsis 654 kilometers (406 mi)
Orbital period 97.45 minutes
Orbits per day 14.77037263

NanoSail-D2 is a small satellite built by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Ames Research Center to study the deployment of a solar sail in space. It is a three-unit CubeSat measuring 30 by 10 by 10 centimeters (12 × 3.9 × 3.9 inches), with a mass of 4 kilograms (8.8 lb).[2] Its solar sail has an area of 10 square meters (110 sq ft),[2] and was deployed in around five seconds.

It was planned to be deployed from the FASTSAT satellite around 03 December 2010, two weeks after launch. The satellite did not eject at that time, but on January 17, 2011, it ejected on its own and deployed its sail three days later on the 20th. The beacon signal began transmitting after ejection and was first received on the afternoon of the 19th of January.


NanoSail-D2 was originally built as a ground spare for the NanoSail-D satellite, which was launched aboard a Falcon 1 in 2008, and was subsequently lost when the rocket malfunctioned during stage separation. Over the next two years improvements were made to the spare,[3] and the satellite was incorporated into the FASTSAT mission.

NanoSail-D2 was launched aboard a Minotaur IV/HAPS rocket, inside the FASTSAT satellite. FASTSAT was a secondary payload on the launch, with the primary payload being STPSat-2. The launch also carried RAX, O/OREOS, FalconSat-5, and the two FASTRAC satellites; Sara-Lily and Emma. The Minotaur was launched from Launch Pad 1 of the Kodiak Launch Complex at 01:25 UTC on 20 November 2010.[4] Orbital Sciences Corporation conducted the launch under a contract with the United States Air Force.

FASTSAT was deployed into a low Earth orbit with a perigee of 650 kilometers (400 mi), an apogee of 650 kilometers (400 mi) and 72 degrees of inclination. NanoSail-D2 was expected to separate from FASTSAT on December 6, but although the bay door opened ejection did not occur.[5] Successful ejection was confirmed on 19 January 2011; it is unclear what caused the ejection mechanism to fail and then ultimately release at this later date. NASA requested amateur radio operators listen for the beacon signal from NanoSail-D.[6] They did and picked up the 1 second beacon transmissions which were transmitted every 10 seconds.[7] While battery power was soon exhausted, as predicted by the principal investigator, Dean Alhorn,[8] the spacecraft will sail on in low-Earth orbit for 70 to 120 days, depending on atmospheric conditions, before it burns up. It will be easiest to view after the atmosphere stabilizes its tumbling.[9]

To generate publicity and to encourage observations while the sail is still in orbit, NASA and have announced a photography competition with a grand prize of $500 to capture images of the solar sail in orbit.[10]


External links

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