High-tech disco ball satellite launched from rocket

9:29 am on 25 January 2018

Rocket Lab hopes a newly launched satellite will be the brightest object in the night sky.

Rocket Lab's 'Humanity Star'.

Rocket Lab's 'Humanity Star'. Photo: Supplied / Rocket Lab

On Sunday the company successfully launched a small Electron rocket in to orbit from the Māhia Peninsula.

On board was the 'Humanity Star', a geodesic sphere made from carbon fibre with 65 highly reflective panels.

It is expected to become the brightest object in the night sky as it reflects the sun's light back to Earth, Rocket Lab said.

It will circle the earth every 90 minutes, and will remain in orbit for about nine months.

Its founder and chief executive, Peter Beck, said the satellite was launched to encourage people to consider their place in the universe, and to reflect on their own lives and the lives of humanity as a species.

Mr Beck told Morning Report he wanted the first satellite New Zealand launched to be "something a little bit special".

"It was really important that we do something that the whole world can share in and enjoy," he said.

Satellites can usually be seen from earth and the Humanity Star would only be "slightly brighter" than the other stars in the sky, he said.

It was not space junk, and would safely burn up on re-entry, Mr Beck said.

"The night sky is full of stars, this is just one other star ... It's not like we're polluting out the night sky with a whole bunch of stuff.

"But it is a symbol and hopefully it's something that people can gravitate to," he said.

"My hope is that everyone takes their children outside to look at the Humanity Star - but in doing so looks past the Humanity Star into the universe and hopefully realises how fragile we are as a species on this rock in the universe."

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