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Science & Technology

Successful solar spacecraft test at Cal Poly moves project to next phase

Last month a group of Cal Poly students worked to test elements of a high-tech spacecraft they're working on with Stanford University. But, a communications glitch forced a trip back to the drawing board.

On Tuesday night however, the students enjoyed the thrill of success.

Doug Stetson, the LightSail program manager for the Planetary Society, said the test involved, "simulating all of the activities that the spacecraft will conduct when it's on orbit after launch."

Students put the spacecraft through all of its sequences, then brought it to the deployment table, so they could unfurl what's known as the solar sail, the last step in the LightSail mission.

"This was a critical test for us to get ready for launch," said Stetson.

Alex Dias is also with the LightSail program and said it was exciting to deploy the Solar Sail after a couple years of storage.

"I just got a congratulatory call from Bill Nye, thanking everyone for all their hard work. So that was pretty exciting," said Dias.

Bill Nye, host of the PBS show Bill Nye the Science Guy, was on the Cal Poly campus for last month's canceled test.

The team will now analyze the results from Tuesday night's procedures. The next phase will be a trip through Cal Poly's Thermal Vacuum Chamber where it will be subjected to a space-like environment.

http://youtu.be/AR8TTgq_bRU