New Zealand-based spaceflight company Rocket Lab launched the Humanity Star ‘disco-ball’ like satellite into space in January 2018 onboard Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket. It is a carbon-fiber reflective orb that reflects light from the sun back to Earth. The satellite was launched with an aim to help people all over the world look up and marvel at the universe for a moment.
Notably, the 8kg carbon fiber sphere, which resembles a disco ball, was supposed to orbit the world for nine long months. But, unfortunately, the Humanity Star has fallen back to Earth and burned up in the planet’s atmosphere in just two months of its launch.
Jonathan McDowell, from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said that the Humanity Star was expected to work for nine months as it is the usual amount of time that objects in similar orbits are supposed to remain stable. He claimed that the reason behind the satellite’s early fallout could be the uncalculated atmospheric drag that has been stronger than expected.
McDowell added that the Humanity Star is mostly empty as compared to the average satellite of its size. This is the reason that it gets blown around by the wind more.
“There’s not a whole lot of data out there about geodesic spheres and how long they’re supposed to [stay up] and what time frame they’re supposed to re-enter on their own,” Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s CEO, tells The Verge. “So it’s always been tough to calculate.”
Beck noted that although the Humanity Star project went live for just two months, it was still a success. He went ahead to thank people who shared their stories of experiencing it and also to those who sent photos and videos of Humanity Star.
Beck has confirmed that the company isn’t planning on launching another Humanity Star anytime soon.