Updated on March 20 at 5:53 p.m. ET
Humanity will come crashing down earlier than expected.
The Humanity Star, a satellite launched into space in January, will reenter Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrate sometime this week, according to websites that track the movement of objects in orbit around the planet. The satellite was always going to come back down. But it was supposed to remain in orbit for nine months, according to Rocket Lab, the U.S. spaceflight company, based in New Zealand, that built the satellite.
SatView and Space-Track, databases that track all artificial satellites and space probes around Earth, forecast that the Humanity star will reenter the atmosphere sometime on Thursday, March 22. (See SatView’s page here, and Space-Track’s page here.) Rocket Lab’s own tracker shows that the satellite’s altitude is already steadily dropping.
The Humanity Star is a 3-foot-tall, 23-pound spherical satellite made of carbon fiber. It’s covered 76 highly reflective panels that direct sunlight back to Earth as it spins rapidly. It looks like a disco ball, a fitting description for its sole purpose: Rocket Lab just wanted to put a shiny object in space to draw people’s attention. Rocket Lab launched the satellite, along with three other small commercial satellites, on the company’s Electron rocket, on January 21. It was the first time the rocket successfully reached orbit.