Artist concept of Nanosail-D in Earth orbit. Credit: NASA

Nanosail-D Update: Things Look Grim

10 Dec , 2010 by


We reported the successful ejection of the Nanosail-D nanosatellite from the satellite that it was launched with earlier this week. Well, the most recent release from NASA states that things might have turned out otherwise. Not only has the sail potentially failed to deploy, it’s currently unclear if the nanosatellite was even ejected.

In NASA’s own words on the mission site:

At this time, it is not clear that NanoSail-D ejected from the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite (FASTSAT) as originally stated on Monday, Dec. 6. At the time of ejection, spacecraft telemetry data showed a positive ejection as reflected by confirmation of several of the planned on orbit ejection sequence events. The FASTSAT spacecraft ejection system data was also indicative of an ejection event. NanoSail-D was scheduled to unfurl on Dec. 9 at 12:30 a.m., and deployment hasn’t been confirmed. The FASTSAT team is continuing to trouble shoot the inability to make contact with NanoSail-D. The FASTSAT microsatellite and all remaining five onboard experiments continue to operate as planned.

What a bummer. This is all we have to go on right now – we’ll keep you posted as the situation develops over the weekend.

Source: NASA press release

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December 10, 2010 6:36 PM

If I were the guy or gal that had to fold that thing up in its satellite, I’d probably be the saddest person on Earth right about now.

December 10, 2010 9:51 PM

Would be given a course of origami

December 11, 2010 3:22 AM

Why is it that this technology is causing NASA so much pain? JAXA was able to launch a solar sail to Venus, (even if they couldn’t get a probe to enter into orbit around the planet), which, it seems, is making good progress.

December 11, 2010 2:05 AM

What a bummer is right, if it is a total failure, I do hope they try this mission again soon.

December 11, 2010 5:05 AM

I wander if NASA tested boom deployment in zero G; for satellite that small, it can be done in vomit comet. Sail deployment looks to create lots of reaction torque and if you add all the tumbling you are going to have during satellite release, it will be hard to predict what might happen. JAXA sail deployment was very well planned and executed; sail was “pulled” out.