Humanity’s new star

This small artificial satellite is designed to encourage wonder and reflection.
By | Published: February 1, 2018 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
The Humanity Star’s orbit lets it circle the globe every 90 minutes.
Rocket Lab/Google
You now have nine months to enjoy the recently launched Humanity Star — an artificial satellite designed specifically for maximum visibility from anywhere on the planet over the course of its nine-month orbit. This reflective geodesic sphere was deployed during Rocket Lab’s January 21 Electron rocket launch, which also carried three commercial satellites into space and ushered New Zealand into the growing number of nations capable of reaching Earth orbit.

The Humanity Star is a small sphere about 3 feet (1 meter) in diameter. It’s designed to reflect sunlight from its 65 panels, much like the Iridium satellites reflect light from their flat panels (called Iridium flares). But while Iridium flares are unintentional, the Humanity Star’s reflections are meant to act as a sort of interactive space art piece, with the goal of not only encouraging a sense of planetary community, but also instilling a sense of wonder about the night sky.

The “Still Testing” Electron rocket carried the Humanity Star as part of its January 21 payload.
Rocket Lab
“Wait for when the Humanity Star is overhead and take your loved ones outside to look up and reflect. You may just feel a connection to the more than seven billion other people on this planet we share this ride with,” says Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s founder and CEO, on the Humanity Star website. The website provides additional information about the passive satellite, including its current position in its 90-minute polar orbit and the best times to view it (dawn or dusk).

After its nine months are up, the satellite’s orbit will have decayed to the point where atmospheric drag slows it down and Earth’s gravity will cause it to de-orbit. The small, reflective sphere will burn up completely on re-entry. And during those nine months, the Humanity Star’s wide-coverage orbit means it’s only visible from any one place on the planet a few times, so if you see that it’s visible from your location, get out and look skyward to take part in this unique, yet global, experience.