Digital rendering of Trevor Paglen's Orbital Reflector.

Nevada Museum of Art Crowdfunds the Launch of Trevor Paglen’s Satellite

The Nevada Museum of Art has created a Kickstarter to fund the launch of a satellite, an artwork by Trevor Paglen, into space. Claiming this would be the “first satellite to exist purely as an artistic gesture,” the piece will be titled Orbital Reflector and is intended as “a public sculpture, visible from the ground without a telescope—a satellite that belongs to everyone.”

Describing the piece, the museum’s Kickstarter page says that the work would be “packed inside of a small (3U) satellite called a CubeSat that will be launched into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, anticipated for early 2018. Once in low Earth orbit, at approximately 350 miles (575 km) from Earth’s surface, a 100-foot-long diamond-shaped balloon will deploy from the CubeSat. The balloon will reflect sunlight back to Earth, making the satellite visible to the naked eye. It will remain in space for approximately two months.” The top reward on Kickstarter for backing the project includes an editioned C-print photograph by the artist, accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, as well as stickers, a patch, and a postcard.

The artist and the museum are working with an aerospace firm called Global Western to design and manufacture Orbital Reflector. Work on this piece has been ongoing since 2015, and an early model for the artwork currently hangs in the Nevada Museum of Art’s Donald W. Reynolds Grand Hall. The institution is due to officially announce the Orbital Reflector project at its 2017 Art + Environment Conference, where Paglen will be a keynote presenter. The launch of Orbital Reflector will coincide with the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s retrospective of Paglen’s work in Washington, DC, set to open in summer 2018.

The satellite has its own website, where one can track its flight data. For more on the artist’s recent work, see his 500 Words with Andrianna Campbell from July 2017.