View Full Version : Russian Crowdfunded Satellite May Soon Become Brightest “Star” in the Sky

2016-Mar-07, 06:50 PM
We*may soon look up and see a satellite brighter than the space station and even Venus*gliding across the night sky if a Russian crowdfunding effort succeeds. An*enthusiastic team of students from*Moscow University of Mechanical Engineering are using Boomstarter (https://boomstarter.ru/), the Russian equivalent of Kickstarter, to raise the money needed to build and launch a pyramid-shaped satellite made of highly reflective material they're calling Mayak, Russian for "Beacon".
Young engineers at Moscow University explain the Mayak Project
To date they've collected more than $23,000 or 1.7 million rubles. Judging from the video, the team has built the canister that would hold the satellite (folded up inside) and performed a high-altitude test using a balloon. If funding is secured, Beacon*is scheduled to*launch on a Soyuz-2 rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (http://www.kosmotras.ru/en/bayconur/) in the second quarter*of this year.
Once in orbit, Beacon will inflate*into a pyramid with a surface area of*172 square feet (16 square meters). Made of reflective metallized film 20 times thinner than a human hair, the satellite is expected to become the brightest man-made object in orbit ever. That title is currently held by the International Space Station which can shine as brightly as magnitude -3 or about three times fainter than Venus. The brightest satellites, the*Iridiums (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iridium_satellite_constellation), can flare to magnitude -8 (http://astrobob.areavoices.com/2010/05/18/the-pleasures-of-satellite-watching/) (as bright as the crescent moon) but only for a few seconds before fading back to invisibility. They form a "constellation" of *some 66 satellites that provide data and voice communications.
A concurrently-developed mobile app would allow users to know when Beacon would pass over a particular location. The students hope to achieve more than just track a bright, moving light across*the sky. According to their website (http://cosmomayak.ru/),*the goal of the project is the “popularization of astronautics and space research in Russia, as well as improving*the attractiveness of science and technology education among young people.” They want to show that almost anyone can build and send a spacecraft into orbit, not just corporations and governments.
Further, the students hope to*test aerodynamic braking in the atmosphere and find out more about the density of air at orbital altitudes. Interested donors can give anywhere from*300 rubles (about $5) up 300,000 ($4,000). The more money, the more access you’ll have to the group and news of the satellite’s progress; the top donor will get invited to watch the launch on-site.
Once*finished with the Mayak Project, the team wants to built another version that uses that atmosphere for braking its speed and returning it — and future satellites — safely back to Earth without the need for retro-rockets.
I think all these goals are worthy, and I admire the students' enthusiasm. I only hope that satellite launching doesn't become so cheap and popular that we end up lighting up the night sky even further. What do you think?
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2016-Mar-12, 07:47 PM
That will give us more UFO reports than any of their old Zonds