Humanity Star


Humanity Star
Humanity Star (39753474634).jpg
Flare of Humanity Star as seen from Victoria, Australia
Mission typePublic awareness
COSPAR ID2018-010F
SATCAT no.43168
Mission durationPlanned: 9 months
Final: 2 months, 1 day
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerRocket Lab
Launch mass≈8 kg (18 lb)[1]
Dimensions≈1 m (3 ft)[2]
Start of mission
Launch date21 January 2018, 01:43 (2018-01-21UTC01:43) UTC[3]
Launch siteRocket Lab LC-1
ContractorRocket Lab
End of mission
DisposalOrbital re-entry
Decay date22 March 2018, 13:15 (2018-03-22UTC13:16) UTC[4]
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
Semi-major axis5,756.8 km (3,577.1 mi)
Perigee altitude283.4 km (176.1 mi)
Apogee altitude474.0 km (294.5 mi)
Period92.1 min
Epoch12 February 2018, 01:53:56 UTC[5]

Humanity Star was a passive satellite designed to produce flares visible from Earth.[2] Its shape was a geodesic sphere about 1 metre (3 ft) in diameter, similar to a large disco ball. It was launched into polar orbit on an Electron rocket by Rocket Lab in January 2018[6] and reentered the atmosphere on 22 March 2018.[4] According to Rocket Lab, it was meant to be "a bright symbol and reminder to all on Earth about our fragile place in the universe".[7]

Launch and orbit

Humanity Star was launched on 21 January 2018 at 01:43 UTC from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, located on the Māhia Peninsula of New Zealand.[3][8]

It orbited the Earth every 92 minutes in a polar orbit of approximately 290 by 520 km (180 by 320 mi) in altitude.[5] According to Rocket Lab, the satellite's orbit was expected to decay after nine months, eventually burning up completely in Earth's atmosphere.[9] However, the satellite re-entered several months early on 22 March 2018 at about 13:15 UTC.[4]


Because of its highly reflective surface, Rocket Lab claimed Humanity Star could be seen by the naked eye from the surface of the Earth. Its apparent brightness was estimated to be magnitude 7.0 when half illuminated and viewed from a distance of 1,000 kilometres (620 mi), while its maximum brightness was estimated to be magnitude 1.6.[3]

The satellite was most likely to be visible in the night sky at dawn or dusk.[10] Its orbit could be tracked at Heavens-Above[11] and at the satellite's website.[12]


Initial reactions by astronomers were negative, since reflective objects in orbit can interfere with astronomical observations.[13][14] It has been described as an act of vandalism of the night sky, space graffiti,[15] a "publicity stunt"[16][17] and "glittery space garbage".[18] Others argue that flares by existing satellites and the ISS are much brighter than Humanity Star.[19]

Alice Gorman suggests that Humanity Star and Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster are statements with very different but related messages: while Humanity Star may be seen as promoting a unifying vision and the Roadster as a reminder of inequality, "each tells the story of [human] attitudes to space at a particular point in time."[20]

See also


  1. ^ Bradley, Grant (25 January 2018). "Rocket Lab's 'Humanity Star' is New Zealand first satellite". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b Rand, Lisa Ruth (26 January 2018). "Space-Spotting: How To See Humanity Star and Other Objects in Orbit". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Peat, Chris (27 January 2018). "Humanity Star - Satellite Information". Heavens-Above. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Decay Data: Humanity Star". Space-Track. 22 March 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b Peat, Chris (12 February 2018). "Humanity Star - Orbit". Heavens-Above. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  6. ^ Grush, Loren (24 January 2018). "Rocket Lab secretly launched a disco ball satellite on its latest test flight". The Verge. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  7. ^ "A Star for Humanity". The Humanity Star. Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  8. ^ Ashton, Andrew (25 January 2018). "Maori 'chuffed' to host launch of Star Rocket Lab's new Humanity Star". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Rocket Lab's secret launch revealed as 'Humanity Star' resembling giant disco ball". Newshub. 25 January 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  10. ^ Shepherd, Simon (25 January 2018). "How to see Rocket Lab's 'Humanity Star'". Newshub. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  11. ^ Peat, Chris (26 January 2018). "Humanity Star - Visible Passes". Heavens-Above. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Track". The Humanity Star. Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  13. ^ Amos, Jonathan (24 January 2018). "'Disco ball' put into space from NZ". BBC News. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  14. ^ Sergal, Michael (25 January 2018). "Astronomer Ian Griffin says Rocket Lab and Peter Beck have 'vandalised the night' with satellite". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  15. ^ McGowan, Michael (26 January 2018). "'Space graffiti': astronomers angry over launch of fake star into sky". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  16. ^ Scharf, Caleb A. (25 January 2018). "Twinkle, Twinkle, Satellite Vermin". Scientific American. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  17. ^ Caron, Christina (28 January 2018). "Is This Shiny Satellite Sky Art or 'Space Graffiti'?". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  18. ^ Sheridan, Kate (26 January 2018). "Rocket Lab's 'Humanity Star' widely mocked on social media as glittery space garbage". Newsweek. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  19. ^ King, Bob (31 January 2018). "Humanity Star: Bright Idea or Dark Sky Nemesis?". Sky & Telescope. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  20. ^ Gorman, Alice (7 February 2018). "A sports car and a glitter ball are now in space – what does that say about us as humans?". The Conversation. Retrieved 9 July 2018.

External links

  • Official website