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Deliberate flare satellites

Space industry outreach & inspiration - like Mayak but more interactive and less annoying
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With the flare-producing Iridium communication satellites just about all deorbited now, you can no longer just check a viewing schedule on your phone (Heavens-Above!) and head out on just about any given night to see with your naked eyes a bright streak of sunlight reflected off a satellite flying above you. Iridium's new satellites don't have the big flat antenna panels that reflected the light so well.

Therefore, I propose launching a few satellites to deliberately produce flares, on demand. Members of the public would be able to submit requests via a website or phone app to receive a flare. The satellites would also produce flares on a predetermined schedule, to allow spontaneous viewing like with the Iridium ones.

The satellites would have aimable mirrors, as opposed to the fixed antennas on the Iridium satellites. This would mean that fewer satellites could produce more flares with ground tracks where viewers want to view them (mostly cities), while avoiding flares where they're diswanted (i.e. astronomical observatories, normally sited away from cities). The Iridium satellites couldn't control their flares' ground tracks at all—they just occurred at effectively random locations on Earth, most of which passed over no viewers.

The satellite design could be pretty simple: Just a great big flat mirror (as big as will fit in the launch vehicle fairing), and, at one end, a small box with the computer, thrusters, reaction wheels, solar cells, and radio. The flare brightness could be modulated, if desired, with a liquid crystal light valve over the mirror (expensive, and reduces max brightness by ~50%, but allows fast modulation) or by tilting the mirror away from the desired ground track and back onto it (cheaper, but slower, and produces the inverse signal on an adjacent ground track).

The ability to go outside at night, make a request by tapping a few buttons on your phone, and, a few minutes later, see a point of light zooming across the sky exactly where and when the app said it would, optionally flashing a Morse coded message*, would probably help remind people that we really do have thousands of things up there doing work for us.

*paid extra for regular users, free for humanitarian communication or when the message is "EARTH IS ROUND"

(Urban astronomers, just be glad I didn't put this in the category Public: Street Lighting!)

N/A [2019-04-08]

notexactly, Apr 08 2019

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       Sorry—clicked the wrong button again and deleted [MaxwellBuchanan] anno saying the ISS is good for flare viewing. True. But you can't request a flare at a specific time (from a list of possibilities) or with a specific Morse code message from it. (But you can talk to real live humans aboard it by ham radio, which is pretty neat!)
notexactly, Apr 09 2019
  

       I really need to do something (uBlock Origin cosmetic filter, userstyle, userscript, …) to hide those [delete] buttons. Or I could just post an idea about the site having something to solve that problem.
notexactly, Apr 09 2019
  

       I thought flares went out of date in the 1970's. Presumably the factories could be de- mothballed?
not_morrison_rm, Apr 09 2019
  

       Heaven forfend ...   

       The Russians proposed lofting a mirror to provide artificial moonlight in Siberia.   

       Maybe something using Cubesats could be done. We like Cubes ...
8th of 7, Apr 09 2019
  

       I was envisioning the body of the satellite to which the mirror is attached as being in the shape of a cube.
notexactly, Apr 09 2019
  

       <Turns up Cube Intensifier Ray another notch/>
8th of 7, Apr 09 2019
  
      
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