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October 4, 2017 AT 4:00 am

Artist Launching Satellite That Will Be Visible to the Naked Eye

via MOTHERBOARD

In space, nothing frivolous is tolerated. There’s plenty of beauty in the abyss of the universe, but relatively little of it is human-made. We build habitats, rocket ships, and satellites that can be beautiful in their own utilitarian ways, and we gain a lot of inspiration from what these devices see for us: Distant stars, awesome nebulas, our own home world. But art, made by humans, and actually installed in space? It’s not a thing. These is no space-based art world.

American artist Trevor Paglen hopes to change that next year. With Orbital Reflector, he’s planning to launch a sculpture into low-earth orbit, for terrestrial viewers to watch and track with an app. It’s a useless satellite, serving no purpose beyond the aesthetic.

It looks like a giant lawn dart or a hiltless sword flinging through space. The original prototype shape was a sphere, but he and his team redesigned the satellite to be a 100-foot-long stretched-out diamond shape for maximum reflective surface area, so it will be visible in the night sky with the naked eye from Earth. Around April 2018, it’ll be folded into a brick-sized package and packed into a CubeSat, which will be strapped to a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, blasted beyond the atmosphere, and then released to orbit roughly 350 miles above the surface of the Earth.

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