The satellite was launched on Saturday from Rocket Lab's launch complex on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula, atop a low-priced Electron rocket. The rocket had an extra passenger that it deployed in addition to the satellites, however, as sharp-eyed observers noticed and the company recently revealed.
Just like any disco ball down here on Earth's surface, the intention is to reflect light and create a attractive light show which the company's CEO, Peter Beck, hopes will be seen by everyone "no matter where you are in the world, rich or in poverty, in conflict or at peace". About the size of a large beach ball, it's visible from Earth with the naked eye, and the company announced it will be "the brightest thing in the night sky". He wants it to have a more serious impact.
"But in all honesty, yes, it's a giant mirror ball", he said.
Peter Beck, the chief executive of Rocket Labs, said on the Humanity Star's website that it would bring people together, as it should be visible from Earth at dawn or dusk, and can be tracked on their website. The rocket launched from New Zealand on Sunday successfully reached orbit carrying small commercial satellites.
Beck said the idea came to him after talking to people who would tell him what street they lived on or their country or origin. He hopes the satellite will become a focal point for humanity, and will serve as a reminder for people to look past their daily concerns and to face larger challenges like climate change and resource shortages. "You may just feel a connection to the more than seven billion other people on this planet we share this ride with".
It does seem like the Humanity Star is going to be not just obstructing the view of the night's sky, but it's also going to be a pain for astronomers who are trying to look at distant objects without being badgered by gaudy distractions.
Rocket Lab did not respond to the Press Association's request for comment on the satellite. It truly is meant to act like a giant disco ball, to reflect the Sun's light back to Earth as it flies around the planet in a 300×500km orbit. But it turns out the rocket also carried a secret payload into space at the behest of the company's founder, Peter Beck.
Rocket Lab says Humanity Star, a geodesic sphere made of carbon fiber with 65 reflective panels, could well rank as the brightest satellite in the night sky. "It is created to be a brief moment of just a few seconds".