Light-powered spacecraft undergoes first tests / Drone use considered by UK government / Forbes predicts next startup unicorns

By Lucy Ingham


Good morning, here’s your Tuesday morning briefing to set you up for the day ahead. Look out for these three things happening around the world today.

Light-powered spacecraft undergoes first tests

A spacecraft propelled by a Sun-powered solar sail is set to be tested in Earth’s orbit for the first time today.

Conditions permitting, the LightSail 2 will be deployed today, becoming the first spacecraft in Earth orbit to be propelled entirely by sunlight.

Designed to carry very small payloads such as cubesats, the LightSail is the result of a crowdfunding effort by the Planetary Society.

It was launched aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket on 25 June, and follows successful test of LightSail 1 in 2015.

It is hoped that the technology will provide a gateway for lower-cost space exploration.

Drone use considered by UK government

The UK government’s Science and Technology Committees will today take evidence on the use of both commercial and recreational drones in the UK.

Witnesses will include Transport Minister Baroness Vere and British Model Flying Association chief executive David Phipps.

The review follows tightening restrictions on the use of drones around UK airports after a drone-related incident at Gatwick in December 2018 saw over 750 flights grounded.

The potential of commercial drones is considered particularly notable, with the technology expected to find uses across a large selection of industries in the next few years.

Forbes predicts next startup unicorns

Business magazine Forbes will today publish its annual list of predicted startup unicorns: companies it predicts will soon be worth over a billion dollars.

The Next Billion-Dollar Startups list is published annually, and is considered a key predictor of high-value startups.

The 2018 list included entries such as defense startup Anduril Industries, which is the latest project of Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey, MOOC provider Coursera and fashion reselling platform Poshmark.

Monday’s Highlights


£183m British Airways fine sees airline become GDPR “guinea pig”

Plant DNA editing breakthrough vital to future food supply

Underwater robot to seek out viable mine sites