Official: Research satellite appears to unfurl solar sails

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mission officials say a tiny spacecraft orbiting Earth appears to have successfully unfurled its solar sails to test the potential of using sunlight for propulsion.

Commands were sent Tuesday to the Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 from mission control at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Society chief scientist Bruce Betts say data sent down from the craft indicates successful deployment.

Photos are expected to be transmitted later in the day to confirm deployment.

The spacecraft about the size of a loaf of bread was launched from Florida last month. Its four triangular sails were expected to form a square totaling 344 square feet (32 square meters).

If it works as planned, the momentum of photons will accelerate the sail, a potential way to propel tiny satellites known as CubeSats.

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