Russian Satellite Will be the Most Visible Object in the Night Sky

Sunday, April 10, 2016 - 01:32

Russian engineers are working on the Mayak crowdfunded satellite project which the team claims will be the most visible object in the night sky.

This project has been undertaken by engineers with the University of Mechanical Engineering in Moscow. The satellite is called Mayak, or "beacon" in English, and it is designed to orbit and reflect sunlight using giant sails, making it appear brighter than any other stars in the night sky. The team reported that they had collected a million and a half rubles (approximately USD 20,000) via the Boomstarter crowd-funding site, and the sum has been added to other donations—together, it has been enough to build and test the satellite, Science alert reports.

The three main goals of this project are to prove that such an effort can work, that crowd-funding can be used to pay for space research projects. The team wants to show that space exploration is no longer confined to only governments or wealthy groups or individuals—and that from now on, almost any group or person with a passion for space exploration can start a project and get it funded. The second goal is for the satellite to do its job, which is to unfurl and use its large swath of reflectors to reflect rays from the sun back to Earth.

The third goal, which requires further funding, is to build an aerodynamic braking system for satellites that can be used to bring them back down to Earth, removing the need to add an engine. As a side project, the team also has plans to build a model of the Mayak satellite to be housed in Moscow's Museum of Cosmonautics.

"We are sending a spacecraft into orbit that will be the brightest star in the sky, visible from any point on our planet," said project leader Alexander Shaenko, head of the Contemporary Cosmonautics program at Moscow State Mechanical Engineering University.

Mayak itself is only roughly the size of a loaf of bread, but it's designed to unfurl a 16-square-metre, triangular sail once it gets into orbit 600 km above the Earth, turning the whole object into a giant, reflective pyramid.

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