Press Release

LightSail Test Flight Named Mission of the Year at SmallSat Conference

By SpaceRef Editor
August 14, 2015
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At the 29th annual American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)/Utah State University (USU) Conference on Small Satellites, The Planetary Society’s citizen-funded LightSail spacecraft test mission (LightSail-A) was named Mission of the Year by the AIAA Small Satellite Technical Committee. Eleven standout small satellite projects from around the world were nominated by a committee of experts. A voting period during the conference engaged the engineering and scientific community and the public.

Bill Nye (The Science Guy®), CEO at The Planetary Society, celebrated the news:

“Wow… we are delighted that LightSail was named Mission of the Year. This is great news for people around the world who supported our citizen-funded spacecraft test flight. When you look down that list of CubeSats that flew this year, you can see we were in pretty impressive company. Each of these missions is part of new era of democratized spaceflight. We are honored that LightSail has inspired the CubeSat community, and we welcome all citizens of Earth to join us on our next LightSail flight.”

The 29th AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites goal was to explore the current state and future possibilities within the critical systems that support mission success. With the theme, “All Systems Go! Critical Pieces for Mission Success,” the Conference on Small Satellites highlighted that effective small satellite missions require success across multiple systems. These systems include: launch, satellite, payload, ground network, mission operations and data analysis. Over the past few decades, satellite mission and systems developers have made critical advancements in each of these areas. These advancements have proven the utility of small satellite missions in military, civilian, and commercial endeavors.

Rex Ridenoure, CEO of Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation, accepted the Mission of the Year Award on behalf of the LightSail-A team, many of whom were also attending the conference. “The small satellite community is one of the most dynamic, innovative and exciting sectors in the global space industry today, and is driving some of the most important changes and trends we see in the news. We are thrilled that LightSail-A has inspired this community and the public to such a degree and are honored to be recognized among such outstanding missions.”

The LightSail test mission spacecraft was originally designed and built by Stellar Exploration Inc. in San Luis Obispo, California. Important flight system modifications, software, and integration and testing were provided by Pasadena California-based Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation (Ecliptic), a space avionics and sensor systems firm best known for its popular RocketCam family of video systems used on rockets and spacecraft. Boreal Space of Mountain View, California, serves as a subcontractor to Ecliptic. Mission analysis, mission operations, and ground systems were provided by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California and the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. The LightSail-A test mission program was managed by Doug Stetson, president of the Space Science and Exploration Consulting Group of Pasadena, California. He recently transitioned the LightSail Program Manager role to Dr. Bruce Betts, director of science and technology at The Planetary Society. Dr. David Spencer, Professor of the Practice at the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Aerospace Engineering and Director for the Center for Space Systems, is project manager for the LightSail program’s next mission (LightSail-B).

AIAA is the largest aerospace professional society in the world, serving a diverse range of more than 30,000 individual members from 88 countries, and 95 corporate members. AIAA members help make the world safer, more connected, more accessible, and more prosperous.

Celebrating 35 years, The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. With the mission to empower the world’s citizens to advance space science and exploration, its international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded the Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a longtime member of the Planetary Society’s Board, serves as CEO.

For complete coverage of the LightSail test flight, as well as the second LightSail mission scheduled for 2016, visit

SpaceRef staff editor.