A crowdfunding project in Russia hopes to launch an artificial star into space in order to illuminate parts of the Earth via a fake Sun.
If the ‘Mayak’ (or ‘Beacon’) project goes ahead later this year, scientists will be able to create 24 hour long days in some parts of the world, via a satellite that will become the brightest object in our sky (apart from the Sun).
The launch is scheduled for the summer and is expected to be taken up in a Soyuz 2 rocket, with help from Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
The team is planning to place the spacecraft in a sun-synchronous orbit 370 miles (600km) above the ground.
This means it will always be in the path of sunlight, so will always be shining at different locations on Earth as it rotates.
The small spacecraft will launch a giant pyramid-shaped solar reflector in orbit.
The reflector is 170 square feet (16 square metres) in size and made of a thin polymer film 20 times thinner than human hair.
The aim of the project is to promote space research in the country, and to make science and engineering more appealing to young Russians.
The satellite itself won’t serve a particular purpose, other than to prove what can be possible in the field.
A previous proposal, which involved attaching a reflective panel of plastic to a cargo ship heading to the Mir space station, was designed to see if orbiting mirrors could illuminate cities or other parts of Earth by reflecting sunlight.
The idea was that the mirrors could extend daylight hours for farmers, for example, reports Ars Technica.
The Mayak project team recently announced it has raised enough money to undergo the next stage of the rocket’s testing.
Its target of 1.5 million rubles (£14,537/$20,320) has now been surpassed and as of Tuesday morning, the team had raised almost 1.8 million rubles (£17,365/$24,235) from 2,322 sponsors on its Boomstarter crowdfunding page.
‘We are sending a spacecraft into orbit that will be the brightest star in the sky, visible from any point on our planet,’ project leader Alexander Shaenko, head of the modern cosmonautics course at Moscow State University of Mechanical Engineering.
‘We want to show that space exploration is something exciting and interesting, but most importantly that today it is accessible to everybody who is interested.’
Students from the university are also taking part in the crowdfunded project to launch the orbital spacecraft.
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