The Idea

Orbital Illumination is an artwork. It will consist of a constellation of space mirrors which can reflect steerable beams of sunlight down to the night side of the earth. It’s currently in conceptual development.

Orbital Illumination has potential applications beyond the primary mission:

  • Education and Inspiration. Inspiring the public about satellites and aerospace development through a tangible, visible link between earth and space.
  • Quick response illumination for emergencies. ‘Dial-a-light’.
  • Search and Rescue. An illuminated area can become a beacon for people lost on land or at sea and responding vehicles.
  • Short term illumination for remote construction sites, temporary airfields and other projects where bringing in additional lighting equipment is prohibitively time-consuming and/or expensive.
  • Entertainment illumination. Lighting an opera or concert from space. Spectacular light shows across valleys or harbours. Potentially a replacement for fireworks where there are noise or pollution concerns.

We anticipate using a constellation of micro or nanosatellites to achieve our goal. By using many satellites in varying orbits we aim to illuminate a given target throughout the night and provide real-time availability for quick response illumination requests. We aim to achieve relatively narrow beam widths of 30 metres or less at the Earths surface. The beams should be steerable and produce discrete illuminated areas. We are aiming for a minimum brightness equivalent to at least the full moon in clear weather. See our feasibility study page for the full performance criteria.

We are looking for all sorts of people to help make Orbital Illumination real. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist.

Get In Touch

An Artwork

Orbital Illumination is a commercial and scientific project, but it’s foundation is an artistic endeavour. Its first goals are to provoke discussion and interest in the relationship between individuals and space. It can begin to do this long before we have any satellites in orbit. Even a partial journey from idea to realisation will produce worthwhile research and artistic outcomes.

By building on an artistic foundation we commit to using the system in a responsible manner befitting its original purpose. We aren’t interested in creating advertising in space.

History

Space mirrors have been launched before. On the 4th of February 1993 the Russian Federal Space Agency deployed Znamya 2. It used a 20m spin-stabilised mirror which successfully produced a 5km wide spot almost as bright as a full moon. This spot was uncontrolled and moved quickly across the surface of the Earth, only visible to observers as a brief flash.

On 5th of February 1999 Znamya 2.5 failed to deploy. Its 25m reflector was caught on an antenna on the Mir space station. Znamya 2.5 had been intended to be the first controlled space mirror and would be able to illuminate a 7km target for several minutes. After this failure the Znamya project was abandoned.

Znamya 2 Unfurled

Timeline

Phase A

– Feasibility study

– Mission development and promotion

– Produce concept designs for space mirror satellites

The goal of Phase A is to answer the question:

Is It Possible?

Phase B

– Design and manufacture prototype satellite.

– Launch prototype

– Orbital tests.

Phase C

– Design and manufacture production satellites.

– Launch constellation of satellites.

– Provide illumination services.

Right Now

We are at the very beginning of the project. Our current activities are recruiting a team for a feasibility study, finding educational partners and preparing for a crowdfunding campaign. We will need scientists, engineers, technicians, makers, designers, marketers, artists and project managers. But most of all we need supporters. No matter your background and experience there will be something you can do to help Orbital Illumination get off the ground.

Get In Touch

Funding

We are getting our ducks in a row and will soon be launching a crowdfunding campaign. This will be aimed at helping us complete phase one.

Sign up to our mailing list and be the first to know when we go live. We are planning some unique collectible rewards for our supporters.

It’s unlikely crowdfunding alone will get us into space. We are going to need commercial investors and sponsors. Here is where we would thank our major supporters and partners their generous and bountiful support. If you want your name to be the very first listed here than please get in touch.

Subscribe to the Orbital Illumination mailing list