back to article Russia launches non-terrifying satellite that focuses Sun's solar rays onto Earth

Skywatchers are going to see a new light in the heavens this week after the successful launch of the Russian satellite Mayak this past weekend. Mayak, the Russian word for "beacon," is a standard tiny CubeSat probe. It will deploy 170 square feet (16 square metres) of reflective Mylar material in a pyramid shape that will …

  1. Martin Summers Silver badge

    My first thought was that the Russians are planning to use this to burn us all like ants under a magnifying glass...

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      My first thought was that I'd really like to see that, so I should download the Android app.

      Oh, it's in Russian (duh)

      Wow, that's quite a lot of one star reviews.

      Maybe it's not worthwhile after all.

      1. Bill Gray

        Tracking info freely available

        As with the ISS and a lot of other satellites, one can get data on when and where to look at

        http://heavens-above.com/

        You do have to be reasonably careful to give the site a decent idea as to where you are on our green planet, of course.

        As they note, the actual brightness is unknown at this point (I don't know, for example, if the object has even emerged from its cube; if it hasn't, it would probably be in faint-star realm.) Unlike, for example, the Iridium satellites, the orientation is essentially "tumbling randomly", so you might get bright flashes if one of the facets flashes toward you and not if it doesn't.

        Especially as it's a student project, there's some risk that it won't deploy at all and will remain a cube rather than a tetrahedron. Still a Platonic solid, though.

        If you _do_ spot it, please post a report here so the rest of us have some clue what to expect...

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Tracking info freely available

          Two Line Element data:

          1 42830U 17042F 17198.95941365 +.00001137 +00000-0 +12141-3 0 9993

          2 42830 097.6142 108.5338 0013224 224.7854 135.2298 14.90651832000537

          Do some fun Kepler mathematics.

        2. Mage Silver badge

          Re: Tracking info freely available

          Or Orbitron (postcard-ware from Poland). For Windows, but works under WINE. Very pretty and easy to use. It downloads the TLE thingys.

          1. John Sager

            Re: Tracking info freely available

            Or use Gpredict on Linux. The object is catalogued as 2017-042F. I just looked at predictions on Gpredict. It looks like it won't be high in the sky in SE England until around midnight BST, so it may already be in eclipse by that time. Check it out looking NE at about 23:45 tonight.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tracking info freely available

          I'm not in any way affiliated with the site you mention (heavens above), but can I just say it rocks, and has done for years. Simple, informative, keeping the pissing around at a minimum, the way a website should be. Can I also recommend their android app please. Allows you to add reminders in your calendar when you see something worth taking a look at. I currently have an Iridium flare, and a Mayak pass to take a look at over the next couple of nights, if the weather isn't too shit.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's a marketing campaign by "Rocketbank", nothing to see here

        The app is in fact useless - it is restricted access, limited to either the funders of the project or to the clients of (an obscure Russian bank) "Rocketbank". The only other way to get the app to work is through a premium SMS to a Russian-only short number. Too bad the article didn't bother mentioning this - it would have saved me the bother of downloading.

        So at least the Android app is at best a pretty dirty marketing campaign targeted purely at the Russian market, and at worst a scam.

        Which makes me wonder about the reality of the satellite, too

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: It's a marketing campaign by "Rocketbank", nothing to see here

          "limited to either the funders of the project...

          So at least the Android app is at best a pretty dirty marketing campaign targeted purely at the Russian market, and at worst a scam."

          I'm not sure I see the problem. It was a crowd-funded project, and the results are only made available to the people who backed it. Presumably the bank also provided funding and so counts as a backer. That's how pretty much every crowdfunded project works, so why would it make you think it's a scam?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's a marketing campaign by "Rocketbank", nothing to see here

            ... why would it make you think it's a scam?

            Any app which asks you to send a premium SMS to activate smells of a scam as far as I am concerned.

            If you need a private, backers-only app, that's fine - but then the appropriate distribution channel is through a private web site; thankfully, android does not make it particularly difficult to side-load apps.

            If you want to make an app which is free for the backers (who are issued an activation code), but is chargeable for everybody else, that's also fine; google app store does provide the necessary machinery, and it works (and provides me as the user with at least some protection: if the app is obviously broken, I can still cancel to the purchase).

            Anything else is tactics normally used by malware, not by legitimate apps.

      3. 's water music Silver badge

        Wow, that's quite a lot of one star reviews.

        Maybe it's not worthwhile after all.

        Well, one person with a Slavic sounding name left an English language review which could explain it..

        This app requires a code that you get only if you're a crowdfunder or if you apply for a bank card

        1. Ogi

          I doubt the app is actually related to the university, more likely someone had the idea to pull public data (all non military sats blasted into space are tagged and orbit publicly logged AFAIK) and package it into a scam app with one of those "affiliate" referral type deals.

          Someone is just trading on the public interest to peddle their affiliate scam.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Wow, that's quite a lot of one star reviews."

        Rating:- *

        Instead of reflector, satellite contained live wildcat.

      5. Spudley

        Wow, that's quite a lot of one star reviews.

        "well, it looked like a star in the sky, so that's what I clicked. If they'd launched five of them, I'd have clicked the five star button. duh."

      6. Bear

        I read through the ratings, the two complaints seem to be: a. it is not in English, and b. the code is not freely available (main complaint in Russian). There seems to be a connexion with some sort of bank who is sponsoring it.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Just be thankful that they didn't name it "Goldeneye"

      1. LesC
        Mushroom

        >>Just be thankful that they didn't name it "Goldeneye"

        Or Grazer One :)

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Surely it will drive mad many astrophotographers...

      .... when it will enter the frame during a long exposure....

  2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

    My first thought was "surely botnets dont need dedicated command satellites?"

  3. peterjames

    Well since the current international community generally just leaves a mess - someone hinting at maybe cleaning it up can't be a bad thing can it?

  4. HildyJ

    Collusion

    Sean Spicer said plans to send Donald Trump, Jr. to meet with the satellite were still in the planning stages but that the President feels this will be an important diplomatic opportunity for his son. Sources say Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are also being considered for the mission.

    More seriously, this puts me in mind of a pointy version of Echo 1, which was also clearly visible while it orbited.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    A Ginger Bond villian who's big in Korea.

    What's not to like?

    On a slightly serious note space debris is a potentially serious issue. Better methods need to be found to de-orbit this stuff.

    Potential micro meteoroid damage is the stated reason why NASA does not feel either Boeing or SX can meet the target (of roughly 1 in 260) without a mishap on the Crew Transportation System.

    So quite serious.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: A Ginger Bond villian who's big in Korea.

      This particular cubesat is in a low atmosphere skimming orbit. With it's large cross section mylar envelope it'll re-enter on it's on within months. The bigger problem is comms sattelites in high and geosynchronous orbits. And willy waving dick moves like blowing up a sattelite and creating a large cloud of debris, effectively locking out an entire polar orbit; Creating a massive problem for decades to come.

      1. cray74

        Re: A Ginger Bond villian who's big in Korea.

        The bigger problem is comms sattelites in high and geosynchronous orbits.

        Hence the now-standard use of graveyard orbits for geosynchronous satellites.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: A Ginger Bond villian who's big in Korea.

          Graveyard orbits only work if the sat is still operational and responsive at end of life. Which is not always the case. There are already plenty of sats up there that SHOULD have been parked in a graveyard orbit but are instead adrift in their original orbit. And some have exploded.

  6. ForthIsNotDead

    If it's a student project...

    ...then it will probably look down at the earth, declare everyone to be misogynist racists, retreat to its safe-space, and cry like a baby. Tsk. Students, eh?

  7. James 51 Silver badge
    Alien

    For a moment I thought it was going to be another space mirror to help crops grow 24hrs a day.

  8. Nifty

    Mayak jamming

    Is it pure coincidence that the satellite is named after what became known as the USSR's Cold War era radio jamming technique?

    http://www.radiojamming.puslapiai.lt/article_en.htm

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Mayak jamming

      Is it pure coincidence that the satellite is named after what became known as the USSR's Cold War era radio jamming technique?

      Umm, No?

      That project was also named beacon, (in Russian) to reflect how it operated.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Mayak jamming

      The name Mayak reminds me more of the "Mayak Incident" or Kyshtym disaster. One of the lesser known severe nuclear accidents in Russian history releasing about as much radioactive material in one single explosion as was released in the whole of 2011 from the Fukushima plant. (And rather more long lived and nasty materials at that)

  9. Airborne Cigar

    Project Echo reprise

    Only 57 years since the first giant Mylar reflector in orbit...

  10. WibbleMe

    That would be an excellent project for the UK's own space port putting a mirror for the North and Scotland to make the winters a little less harsh, very economical if you calculate the cost.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      "...make the winters a little less harsh..."

      WM suggested, "...UK's own space port putting a mirror for the North and Scotland to make the winters a little less harsh, very economical if you calculate the cost."

      If you're no good with numerical instinct, then do the math.

      You may (very) generously assume 1.36 kw per square meter of reflector surface, 100% efficiency, and 100% duty cycle. The generosity here is probably close to an order of magnitude. A reflector of one square km (!) focused precisely on Scotland's ~80,000 square km would be like a heater bar or two **per square km**. So you'll need a reflector *vastly* larger than km scale.

      So, no.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "...make the winters a little less harsh..."

        How many smallish ones would be needed? Anything to make Scotland more appealing is worth a shot ;-)

        Of course, this would increase global warming.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LEO is getting very crowded, but they keep pouring the junk up there.

    A few months lifetime, and then dangerous junk for decades!

    Old dead cubesats - The Next Problem to be solved!

    Why can't hipsters THINK AHEAD?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Explains one thing

    The latest episode of the children's cartoon "Masha and the Bear" (or Маша и Медведь) that came out this week features aliens crashing to Earth because they ran into a very crowded orbit of space junk. Obviously, this has been much bigger news in Russia than in the Anglophone world.

    But I remember 20 or 30 years ago people raising the question of space junk and the problems it would cause. Then along came the Iridium LEOSAT and Teledesic projects. Iridium planned to put up 66 satellites and Teledesic over 600. They promised world-wide broadband speeds for sat-coms. For these projects, any discussion of space junk were mocked: and by the looks of it, SpaceX with its CubeSat is repeating these projects.

    AC - because I possibly inferred some criticism of SpaceX and do not accept Elon Musk as my personal saviour.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Some notes on satellite design.

    Below 2000Km the largest force on satellites is atmospheric drag.

    At 800Km altitude atmospheric pressure can vary 10x with time of day and season, IE solar heating.

    As part of the satellite design process even small satellites have to consider life time at a particular orbit, which in LEO is relatively short, and a disposal plan, even if it's just demonstrating the satellite will re enter without any assistance in X months.

    Iridium was actually deployed with 77 satellites in Medium Earth Orbit, just below the inner Van Allan radiation belt (the atom with 77 neutrons is Dysprosium, which did not sound a good name for this project).

    Musk's satellite backhaul plan will not use cube sats. The stated mass of each of them is in the 100s of Kg level in 2 layers. IIRC they are talking about 4 000 and 6000 of these.

    The fear of a satellite exploding and triggering a cascade of further explosions is called the "Kessler effect."

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Some notes on satellite design.

      JS19 offered, "Iridium was actually deployed with 77 satellites in Medium Earth Orbit,..."

      Iridium was actually deployed with 66 satellites, plus spares and replacements. The famous "77" was replaced by 66 as a cost savings measure.

      JS19 offered, "...(the atom with 77 neutrons is Dysprosium)..."

      The atom with 77 neutrons is an isotope of Xenon (?). Dysprosium has an Atomic Number of 66 (i.e. 66 protons, number of neutrons varies with isotope), which may be the source of your 66 vs 77 confusion.

  14. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Been there, done that.

    The US measured the properties of the upper atmosphere with the much bigger Echo passive communication satellites of the early 1960s:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Echo

    The Russians do like their space mirrors though, they've tried and failed twice with the Znamya satellites:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Znamya_(satellite)

    Every now and again there are some new gee-whizz 1950s-style articles about how the Russians will be bringing light to the winter tundra thanks to enormous mirrors hanging in space.

  15. Hublot

    Possible sighting..

    I couldn't decide what planet I was looking at before I read this article - either 19th or 20th at about 4.30am, an extremely bright star quite close to and above the crescent moon, low in the eastern sky over SE England. It had to be this as I've never seen a star / planet so bright.

  16. tedleaf

    That would help explain what I saw a few days ago then..

    Was scratching my head,but looks like right time,right movement and would explain why it just vanished while I was looking at it..

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