Russian scientists working on the Mayak satellite – which is set to be the brightest ‘star’ in the night sky – have announced that it is nearing completion. Engineers have crowd-funded around $20,000 (£15,400), which is enough to build and test the satellite which is due to be launched in a fortnight. Its designers say it could be used to combat space junk by using a parachute-like structure to lower the orbits of debris so they can burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Called the ‘Mayak’ or ‘Beacon’, the satellite is set to outshine everything in the sky, apart from the sun, thanks to a giant reflective sheet of material. The controversial satellite is due to be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
It’s the work of engineers from the University of Mechanical Engineering in Moscow. ‘We fight so hard for dark skies in and around our planet,’ Nick Howes, an astronomer and former deputy director of the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland, told IFLScience. ‘‘To see this being potentially ruined by some ridiculous crowdfunded nonsense makes my heart simply despair.’’ The launch of Mayak 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.