Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Disco nights? Rocket Lab launches glinting sphere into orbit

Published:Thursday | January 25, 2018 | 12:00 AM
In this November 2017 photo provided by Rocket Lab, Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck is pictured with his 'Humanity Star' in Auckland, New Zealand.


Look into the night sky at the right time and you might see what amounts to a giant disco ball shimmering and glinting back.

The founder of the company that this week launched the first rocket into orbit from New Zealand said yesterday that he deployed a secret satellite he believes will be the brightest object in the night sky and which he hopes will remind people of their precarious place in a vast universe.

Peter Beck, the New Zealander who founded California-based Rocket Lab, says he used most of the space aboard his test Electron rocket to house an object he has named the "Humanity Star". The rocket successfully reached orbit on Sunday.

The satellite, not much bigger than a large beach ball, is a geodesic sphere made from carbon-fiber with 65 reflective panels. It is designed to spin rapidly and reflect the Sun's light back to Earth. It's expected to orbit the Earth every 90 minutes in an elliptical pattern, travelling at 27 times the speed of sound.

"The goal is to make people look up and realise they are on a rock in a giant universe," Beck said.

Beck has lofty ambitions for his experiment. He hopes the satellite will become a focal point for humanity and will serve as a reminder for people to look past their daily concerns and to face larger challenges like climate change and resource shortages.