- The Humanity Star is part of California-based company Rocket Lab’s entry into the global space-industry scene.
- The 65-sided, carbon-fibre, mirrored sphere launched over a month and a half ago and is finally visible from almost anywhere on Earth.
- But the glitzy sphere has another purpose: Rocket Lab aims to make delivering small payloads into orbit cheaper and easier.
It’s not a bird, a plane, or Superman. That shiny, shimmering object sparkling in the night sky is a satellite launched by Rocket Lab, a recent addition to the new space race.
In January, the California-based company hoisted what it calls the “Humanity Star” onto one of its rockets and launched the 65-sided geodesic sphere into orbit from New Zealand. Beginning this month, the disco-ball like object became visible from several locations. To catch a glimpse of it, you can use the Humanity Star’s website to track its movement. Simply plug in your current location to see the window when you’ll be most likely to view the satellite in the sky.
The idea behind the Humanity Star is for it to be a focal point for everyone on Earth, according to Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s CEO.
“No matter where you are in the world, or what is happening in your life, everyone will be able to see the Humanity Star in the night sky,” Beck said in a statement. “My hope is that all those looking up at it will look past it to the vast expanse of the universe and think a little differently about their lives, actions and what is important for humanity.”
Here’s where the Humanity Star was at the time this post was written:
A glitzy entrance for a new player in the global space industry
Made from carbon fibre and festooned with 65 mirrored triangular panels, the Humanity Star will shimmer and spin as it makes its sojourn around the planet every 90 minutes. Approximately nine months later, the giant disco ball will meet its fiery death after its orbit decays and it crashes into Earth’s atmosphere.
But besides drawing attention to the sky, the shimmering Humanity Star will also put more eyes on Rocket Lab, a company that’s only recently begun to make a splash in the global space industry.
Founded more than a decade ago by Beck, an aerospace engineer and New Zealand native, Rocket Lab is backed by Silicon-Valley based venture capital firm Khosla Ventures and aerospace firm Lockheed Martin.
Unlike SpaceX and Blue Origin, which are competing to build large rockets capable of delivering big payloads into orbit, Rocket Lab aims to build smaller rockets that are equipped to send tiny packages – all for a lower cost than the alternative.
If the effort works, it could fill what many experts say is a growing and unmet void in the global space industry.
Rocket Lab isn’t alone in pursuing this goal. In March, Richard Branson’s company, Virgin Galactic, launched spin-off company Virgin Orbit to focus on quickly and cheaply launching smaller satellites into orbit.
“It’s been clear to me that there’s been something changing,” Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit’s president, told Space.com last spring. “I’ve really admired a lot of the bold moves that have gone on in the industry over the last five to 10 years, where people are doing commercially what was once only done with large, large government-funded programs.”
You can track the Humanity Star in real time and see when it will be visible from different parts of the world at Rocket Lab’s Humanity Star site.