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Disco Nights? Rocket Lab launches flashing sphere in orbit

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Look up at the night sky at the right time and you might see what looks like a disco ball twinkling and twinkling backwards.

The founder of the company that launched the first rocket from New Zealand this week said on Wednesday that it deployed a secret satellite that it believes will be the brightest object in the night sky and that it hopes will remind people of its precarious place in a vast universe. [19659006] Peter Beck, the New Zealander who founded California-based Rocket Lab, says he used most of the space aboard his Electron rocket to house an object he has dubbed "The Star of Humanity." The rocket reached orbit on Sunday. [19659006] The satellite, not much larger than a large beach ball, is a geodesic sphere made of carbon fiber with 65 reflective panels. It is designed to rotate rapidly and reflect sunlight on Earth. It is expected to orbit the Earth every 90 minutes in an elliptical pattern, traveling at 27 times the speed of sound.

"The goal is to make people look up and realize they are on a rock in a giant universe," Beck said.

He has great ambitions for his experiment. It expects the satellite to become a focal point for humanity and will serve as a reminder for people to look beyond their daily concerns and face bigger challenges such as climate change and scarce resources.

That's why Beck said he resisted comparing a disco ball, because he wants it to be something more serious.

"But honestly, yes, it's a giant mirror ball," he said.

Beck said the object should be remarkable, but it will not be much brighter than other stars and satellites and should not distract aviators or stargazers.

The Star of Humanity is expected to orbit around the Earth for about nine months before it retreats to Earth's gravity and burns when it re-enters the atmosphere. Beck said he hopes to launch future Humanity Stars, but said the project is his particular passion and he will have to wait to see how other people react and also consider whether it is financially viable.

Following the successful launch of the test, Rocket Lab expects to begin commercial satellite launches soon.

The company says that the star of humanity will look better in New Zealand after February and in the United States from March due to its changing orbital position. It can be tracked at www.thehumanitystar.com.

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