Crowdfunded satellite will be the 'brightest star' you'll see in the sky

Russian crowdfunded satellite will be the "brightest star in the sky"

A team of Russian engineers has hit its goal to crowdfund an experimental satellite project. The spacecraft won't be doing any scientific research - instead it'll change the appearance of the night sky.

The satellite is named "Mayak", which translates to "Beacon". Its Sun-synchronous orbit means that it'll always face our star, and a 16-square-metre reflector will bounce light back towards Earth - making it appear brighter than anything else in the sky.

Why? Well, er, that's not entirely clear. It seems to be at least partially a case of "to see if we can". Project leader Alexander Shaenko told Sputnik News: "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."

The Independent also claims that there's a bit of nationalistic fervour in there - that it'll serve to remind the world "who was first in space".

'Ridiculous Crowdfunded Nonsense'

The team has hit its target of raising 1.5 million rubles on Russian Kickstarter clone Boomstarter and at the time of writing is up to 1.8 million. That, they say, will let them complete the next stage of flight testing.

Meanwhile, some have criticised the project for obstructing real science. "We fight so hard for dark skies in and around our planet," Astronomer Nick Howes told IFLScience. "To see this being potentially ruined by some ridiculous crowdfunded nonsense makes my heart simply despair."

Nonetheless, Russian space agency Roscosmos says that it could launch as early as July 2016, having already made space on one of its Soyuz-2 rockets.

"Attracting young people to the field of cosmonautics is one of our priorities," a Roscosmos spokesperson told Sputnik News. "Roscosmos works seriously with universities and by supporting projects like Mayak we boost the motivation of students to work for Russian space rocket enterprises in the future."

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.