Artist Trevor Paglen’s Sculpture Orbital Reflector Launches into Space this Week

In addition to carrying sixty-four satellites from seventeen countries, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on Saturday, December 1, will also be hauling a hundred-foot-long, diamond-shaped, polyethylene sculpture called Orbital Reflector

The work, by the American-born, Berlin-based artist Trevor Paglen and coproduced by the Nevada Museum of Art, will be the “first satellite to exist purely as an artistic gesture.” Orbital Reflector will be packed in a small satellite, called a CubeSat, that once in orbit, about 350 miles from Earth, will open and release the kinetic sculpture, which will then inflate like a balloon. Since its interior is coated with reflective titanium dioxide powder, the work will be visible from Earth.

Commenting on the project, Paglen said: “The point for me really was to create a kind of catalyst for looking at the sky and thinking about everything from planets to satellites to space junk to public space and asking, ‘What does it mean to be on this planet?’ It’s a timeless question in some ways, but the content of the question is always changing.”

Orbital Reflector will remain in orbit for approximately three months, before falling out of orbit and burning up in the atmosphere.