A Russian satellite developed by Moscow Polytechnic University is set to become the third brightest object in our sky, behind the sun and the moon.
As reported by The Register, the satellite named Mayak – which appropriately is the Russian word for beacon – is one of 72 “smallsats” that were launched into space atop a Russian Soyuz rocket last Friday.
“On July 14, from the Baikonur Spaceport, we launched Mayak – the first crowdfunding spacecraft in the history of Russia, created by young scientists,” reads Mayak’s website. “At night, in clear weather, one can see it as the brightest shooting star.”
Mayak is currently circling the planet at about 600 kilometres (372 miles) high. Eventually the satellite will unfold into a three meters high regular pyramid sun reflector.
Mayak’s goal is to inspire people to look up to space, as well as testing technology to de-orbit satellites.
Its creators hope that the data it records will assist with the design of larger devices that can be attached onto larger pieces of space junk and used to bring them down from orbit so that they can burn up in the atmosphere. Such junk is a growing issue and has caused its own problems for the International Space Station.
Russian cubesat ‘Mayak’ to launch Jul 14 will deploy a reflector that may be as bright as mag minus 10. Astronomers likely to be annoyed.
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) June 28, 2017
Mayak is the result of a crowdfunding effort by the Moscow Polytechnic University, which raised over $34,000 to get the satellite aloft.
An Android app has been built that allows them to track the progress of the satellite in the months that it is expected to stay aloft.
After Mayak’s month is up it will be deorbited and burnt in the atmosphere.