July 22 (UPI) -- LightSail 2, a CubeSat developed by the Planetary Society, is preparing to deploy its solar sails. The miniature satellite, roughly the size of a toaster, will unfurl its sails at approximately 8:22 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
The Planetary Society will offer live streaming coverage of the milestone, broadcasting mission control at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California.
Last week, mission engineers sent LightSail 2 the signal to go into solar sailing mode. The probe made a series of turns in to and out of the stream of photons radiating from the sun. Once the satellite's sail are deployed, these turns will raise and lower its orbit.
"Even at an altitude of 720 kilometers, the spacecraft's boxing ring-sized solar sail creates atmospheric drag, which limits the time LightSail 2 can raise its orbit to about 1 month," the Planet Society wrote in a blog update. "As one side of its orbit raises, the other side will dip lower into the atmosphere until drag overcomes the force from solar sailing. Therefore, it is essential that the spacecraft's attitude control system is functioning as expected prior to sail deployment."
The Planetary Society designed the CubeSat to test solar sailing technology. The use of solar sails to convert solar wind into thrust could help spacecraft conserve fuel on long-distance missions.
As LightSail 2 readied for this week's sail deployment, the probe found time to snap several new photographs of Earth and send them back to mission control.