A video produced by Mansell shows LightSail 2's orientation with respect to the Sun during a single orbit on July 28, 2019, which happened prior to the recent software updates. The red line shows the direction of the Sun, while the blue line shows the direction of the local magnetic field. Jason Davis from the Planetary Society describes the video:

In the first half of the video, LightSail 2 attempts to fly edge-on into the solar photons, maintaining a 90-degree angle with the Sun, as indicated by “feather” mode. The gaps between data points are not interpolated so as to not misrepresent the data, which makes it look like the sail is jumping around more than it actually is. In the second half of the video, LightSail 2 is in “thrust” mode, trying to keep its long axis to the Sun at about zero so the sail can get a push from sunlight.

As the video shows, there are times where the sail behaves beautifully. And when that happens, the mission team sees excellent orbital performance. On LightSail 2's best day so far, the spacecraft raised its apogee by about 900 meters, showing the promise of flight by light for small spacecraft—the main goal of the program.


Interestingly, the Planetary Society team also conducted simulations to see how the performance of a randomly tumbling spacecraft would compare to actual recorded flight data. Not surprisingly, the controlled orientations resulted in faster rates of lift compared to a tumbling spacecraft.

Spencer told Gizmodo that all LightSail 2 mission performance, including the orientation control, will eventually be documented in conference papers and journal articles compiled by the Planetary Society mission team. A primary goal of the mission, he said, will be to provide this data to the solar sailing community, which includes NASA’s Near Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) mission—a proposed solar sail mission to an asteroid.