Russia is only two weeks away from launching a new satellite that will become one of the brightest stars in the night sky.
Scheduled to launch on July 14, the small Mayak satellite was the result of a $30,000 (£23,000) crowdfunding campaign from the Moscow State Mechanical Engineering University.
Although the satellite is very small – roughly the size of a rugby ball – it will unfurl a giant solar reflector once it reaches orbit. The pyramid-shaped reflector will span 16 meters squared and the goal is to bounce the sun’s light back towards Earth and make it the brightest star in the sky.
An artist’s impression of the Mayak satellite.
The mission’s other stated goal is to further test how to brake satellites whilst in orbit.
According to some calculations from IFLScience , the satellite may not reach the same brightness levels as the moon or the planet Venus, but could certainly outstrip the likes of Mars or the Polaris star.
Understandably, not everyone is happy about the Russians adding a giant spec of light to the night sky.
“We fight so hard for dark skies in and around our planet,” Nick Howes, an astronomer and former deputy director of the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland, told IFLScience .
“To see this being potentially ruined by some ridiculous crowdfunded nonsense makes my heart simply despair.”
But the project says that it will inspire younger generations to take up space research.
According to the Mayak website , objectives include the “popularization of astronautics and space research in Russia, and also increase the attractiveness of science and technology education among young people.”
It also says it will “show in practice, that space has become closer and more accessible, and the launch of the spacecraft can be implemented friends and like-minded people.”