New moon: China to launch lunar lighting in outer space

October 19, 2018
That's no moon... China is planning to replace streetlamps with light from an 'artificial' moon

China is planning to launch its own 'artificial moon' by 2020 to replace streetlamps and lower electricity costs in urban areas, state media reported Friday.

Chengdu, a city in southwestern Sichuan province, is developing "illumination satellites" which will shine in tandem with the real , but are eight times brighter, according to China Daily.

The first man-made moon will launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, with three more to follow in 2022 if the first test goes well, said Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society, the organization responsible for the project.

Though the first launch will be experimental, the 2022 satellites "will be the real deal with great civic and commercial potential," he said in an interview with China Daily.

By reflecting light from the sun, the satellites could replace streetlamps in , saving an estimated 1.2 billion yuan ($170 million) a year in for Chengdu, if the man-made moons illuminate an area of 50 square kilometers.

The extraterrestrial source of light could also help rescue efforts in disaster zones during blackouts, he added.

AFP was not able to contact Wu nor the Tian Fu New Area Science Society to confirm the reports.

As China's space programme races to catch up with that of the United States and Russia, a number of ambitious projects are in the pipeline, including the Chang'e-4 lunar probe—named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology—which aims to launch later this year. If it succeeds, it will be the first rover to explore the "dark side" of the moon.

China is not the first country to try beaming sunlight back to Earth. In the 1990s, Russian scientists reportedly used giant mirrors to reflect light from space in an experimental project called Znamya or Banner.

Chengdu's artificial moon project was announced by Wu at an innovation and entrepreneurship conference in Chengdu on October 10.

In addition to Tian Fu New Area Science Society, other universities and institutes, including the Harbin Institute of Technology and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, are involved in developing Chengdu's illumination satellites.

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42 comments

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Nik_2213
5 / 5 (8) Oct 19, 2018
This will not amuse the astronomers.

Also, given the quantity of orbital trash, a lot of it produced by that Chinese ASAT test, how long will this mirror-sat last before it is totally shredded and crumpled ??
LeadDreamer
2 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2018
This is not the first time... it is *ALSO* not the first time to remind people that a mirror that can cover 50 km^2 could potentially be curved to focus on 5 m^2...
LED Guy
5 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2018
Fake news! Any respectable engineer can run back of the envelope calculations in less than 15 minutes and find a half a dozen reasons why this won't work or even be attempted.

https://www.linke...hneider/
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Oct 19, 2018
Ooohh, this is the Chinese way of twitting the gullible Big Noses.

I'm so jealous that I failed to internet this impractical joke, myself!
mtnphot
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 19, 2018
This is sort of like going to the sun at night because it is cooler...
Old_C_Code
not rated yet Oct 19, 2018
LED Guy Says: "Fake news!"

May be, there is no part of China near the equator, so a stationary satellite would be too far away for that kind of application.
LED Guy
5 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2018
Old_C_Code - geostationary would be a possibility, but now you have to put something that is a respectable fraction of the mass of the ISS in geostationary orbit. That requires a much larger rocket or a lot more launches. The space shuttle could put roughly 25 tons into low earth orbit (300 km).

The highest orbit the space shuttle ever reached was 620 km and that was during one of the Hubble service missions. The Falcon Heavy should be able to deliver about 20 tons to geostationary orbit.

Another point to consider though is that 3 artificial moons would not guarantee "full coverage". Realistically the artificial moons would only be suitable for lighting if they were at least 30 degrees above the horizon. That required 5 artificial moons all in high earth to geostationary orbits.

Ballpark of $100 billion to save $172 million/year in lighting costs. Ignoring maintenance, that's about 600 years to reach payback and the system won't provide the same levels of lighting.
RobL
5 / 5 (1) Oct 19, 2018
Sleep is underrated...
granville583762
5 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2018
When the chinese increase electricity bills to pay for this freeby, they will be perfect for moon lighting!
zeevk
2 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2018
dont' underestimate how many government projects in ALL countries are just excuses for a beauracat to steal money through bribery and raqueteering. or for cover for military projects and/or both.

yucca mountain (10 billion dollar nothing burger)

this project sounds the same.
zeevk
3 / 5 (1) Oct 19, 2018
dont' underestimate how many government projects in ALL countries are just excuses for a beauracat to steal money through bribery and raqueteering. or for cover for military projects and/or both.

yucca mountain (10 billion dollar nothing burger)

this project sounds the same.
guptm
5 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2018
Reflecting Sunlight back to earth will add to its heat budget. It might enhance the earth's temperature.
Beethoven
5 / 5 (4) Oct 19, 2018
The ultimate light pollution
Old_C_Code
5 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2018
If it's not a geosynchronous stationary satellite, how can they possible use it as a Moon? A polar orbit would only allow about 15 to 30 minutes to be in range flying over past China. They would need two dozen or more satellites to take turns.
No other stable orbits exist; a stationary orbit at the equator, or a polar orbit flying around Earth's great circles.
RealScience
5 / 5 (3) Oct 20, 2018
This is not the first time... it is *ALSO* not the first time to remind people that a mirror that can cover 50 km^2 could potentially be curved to focus on 5 m^2...

Theoretically for a point light source, yes, but not for focusing sunlight at earth's distance. The sun's optical diameter is just under 1/100 radian, so even a perfect parabolic mirror could only focus just over 100x on each axis. That's still enough to seriously fry things (e.g. melt a steel bridge till it drips into the river below it...), but is very far from 50 km down to 5 meters.

From geostationary orbit the minimum spot size is about 400 km, so even a 50 km mirror would produce a spot averaging 1/64 normal sunlight.

Of course moonlight is much, much weaker than sunlight. With reasonable reflectivity and flatness, a roughly 1 km Mylar mirror in geosynchronous orbit should cast a 400 km circle of something approximating moonlight.
SkyLight
5 / 5 (3) Oct 20, 2018
Well, nobody else seems to have mentioned this, so I'll give it a try: you don't get something for nothing. Big reflectors of sunlight in space are elsewhere called "solar sails" - solar radiation exerts a pressure on any structure in space, and the pressure is greatest for highly reflective surfaces. So, such a space-based area illuminator would be subject to a constant force or pressure due to solar radiation.

This force can be calculated to be on the order of 8 microNewtons per square meter, so a circular mirror 1km diameter would experience a constant force of about 6 Newtons. So, F=ma, the space mirror would experience a constant acceleration, altering its' orbit, and which would have to be compensated for by thrusters acting in the opposite direction.

So, in addition to all the other reasons why this is a dumb idea, the spacecraft would have to be firing thrusters on a regular basis to keep its' orbit stable. For which a lot of extra fuel would need to be carried.

guptm
4 / 5 (4) Oct 20, 2018
I am convinced that humans will destroy the earth sooner than you may think.
Nik_2213
not rated yet Oct 20, 2018
@Zeevk: Please give your spiel-chequer a kick...
Old_C_Code
1.3 / 5 (4) Oct 20, 2018
Things are better now than ever before in history: less crime, more food, less poverty, more electricity, etc.

You are acting just like a loser guptm, you only see the bad, when things are better than ever.
Roelxp
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2018
I know a faster and cheaper way to develop the project. Does anyone have the project contact or page?
cantdrive85
3 / 5 (3) Oct 20, 2018
Maybe they could put two impossible ideas together, put this daylight moon at the end of a space elevator. A pseudoscientific debacle of epic proportions.
KelDude
5 / 5 (5) Oct 20, 2018
This idea of artificial moons completely overlooks the fact that we'd be flooding the night sky with bright spots that will remove the visibility of most stars because the air will diffuse the light fogging out the stars. The light of cities today have removed the ability of decent star observations so people have to travel far from them to see a dark sky. Only 125 years ago before electric lights everyone enjoyed the beauty of a completely black sky at night, now its just impossible to view the night sky from within a city. If we put these artificial moons into orbit, we will block out much more of the very dark night sky so our kids and grand kids will never enjoy the actual blackness of the night sky. It will glow everywhere, even in the wilderness just as it does today when there is a full moon out. With the rapid evolution in light technologies with led's in place which use almost no power at all, using "saved power" as a reason for the artificial moon is nonsense.
holoman
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2018
Chinese developing weapons system to destroy America !
katesisco
5 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2018
MY cat is promoting a 'fur coats for all' project. She feels raising rabbits would do away with the need for an artificial sun as the coming ice age would raise the brightness sufficiently to be able to read at night. I didn't get the connection so she explained that the ice age cold would make rabbits the new bit coin. The all-in-one provider of fuel, fur and food. The 3 Fs. She pointed out as we would be dependent upon hydroponics in caverns for veggies, the rabbits were a natural. She's already marketing the 3F fur coats available in furrific colors with the small additional tax to support the cats needed to patrol the hydroponics for mice, shrews, etc. She's already contacted an energy supplier to compress and pelletize the rabbit feces but was surprisingly quiet about where the 3F IPO would take place. For some reason she thinks only calico cats are qualified, talk about discrimination. Ouch, that hurt SK!
Solon
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2018
Much speculation about if it would work and what the repercussions may be, so I hope they give it a try, I like experiments. Don't think it will work though.
rrwillsj
3 / 5 (2) Oct 20, 2018
This hoax is a real hoot. And the technical explanations in the comments are fascinating.
guptm
3 / 5 (2) Oct 20, 2018
@Old_C_Code

We are at the worst in the history of the planet despite we have all that you mentioned. CO2 of 409 ppm within about 150 years never happened before in 4.6 billion years.
adam_russell_9615
not rated yet Oct 20, 2018
If it's not a geosynchronous stationary satellite, how can they possible use it as a Moon? A polar orbit would only allow about 15 to 30 minutes to be in range flying over past China. They would need two dozen or more satellites to take turns.


Depending on altitude. At low orbit coverage may take as many satellites as SpaceX is talking about for their satellite internet project.
Old_C_Code
1 / 5 (4) Oct 20, 2018
CO2 is plant food, not a poison. You are insane to think CO2 is harmful. It could go to 8000 ppm safely.
Old_C_Code
1 / 5 (4) Oct 20, 2018
CO2 has been at thousands of ppm in past history. You are nuts.
Thorium Boy
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 21, 2018
Sick of the Chinese. They pollute horribly, they kill endangered animals for ivory or aphrodesiacs, they think of nothing but money and care for no one but themselves.
SkyLight
5 / 5 (4) Oct 21, 2018
A pseudoscientific debacle of epic proportions
Straight from the horse's ass of pseudoscience. Kudos for tryin', but totally zilch for ... errrmm, just about anything else.
Old_C_Code
1 / 5 (3) Oct 21, 2018
H2O is 90% of all the greenhouse gas's effect. Water, 90%. WATER.

Anyway, the article doesn't mention what type of orbit this "thing" will be in. So it's kind of lame.
rrwillsj
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 21, 2018
Oh bag-boy, wherever did you get all those piano-keys and billiard balls the last couple of hundred years?

Your infantile tantrum expresses your jealousy that you are not allowed to play at the "Great Puce Hunter" shoot elephants. Or poison every neighboring community with the misfortune to abide close to your stink.

And, did you really intend to imply that the Chinese are really Yankees at heart?

Huh, didn't realize the lingering cultural subversion committed by the christian missionaries!

bag_boy, I would assume you are at least minimally competent to push a Chinese-invented wheelbarrow?

What do you mean you are in the traces pulling it from the front? great, now we are going to have to srart calling you pony_boy,

Yes, yes! You are adorable in your polished leather harness. Somebody put the bit in to shut him up. While I go oil my quirt.
Old_C_Code
1 / 5 (2) Oct 21, 2018
rrwillgizbag: you're not funny, or creative. That was truly lamebrained.
Cave_Man
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 21, 2018
Old_C_Code, you're thinking in percentages there is actually way more crime, hunger, suffering now due to the population being larger if you count the actual number and not proportion.
dustywells
5 / 5 (3) Oct 21, 2018
Do those of you suggesting LEO for these artificial moons not realize that these satellites will be orbiting in Earth's shadow at night? Even at GEO a reflector will blink off periodically while transiting the shadow, but there it will be too distant to be an effective night time illuminator.

This report sounds like it should be published on April 1.
Old_C_Code
1 / 5 (1) Oct 21, 2018
Percentages measure the actual amount, in relation to the past. You are a math rock Cave_Man. :/ Things are better than ever. To try to deny this fact makes you a big loser, angry at the world's and other's success.
kwyjibo
not rated yet Oct 22, 2018
Why do news agencies continue to propagate the "dark side" of the moon misnomer? Would it be that difficult to say "far side"? Pink Floyd notwithstanding, of course! Although in their case, you could argue that, besides a little poetic license, since one side of the moon is dark at any given moment, you really could meet on the dark side of the moon, whatever it happens to be at that point in time! But to say the rover is going to explore the "dark side" is just wrong.
Solon
5 / 5 (1) Oct 22, 2018
"Why do news agencies continue to propagate the "dark side" of the moon misnomer?"

Until we have some photometric numbers for far side illumination levels then WE will remain in the dark.
barakn
5 / 5 (2) Oct 22, 2018
Things are better than ever. To try to deny this fact makes you a big loser, angry at the world's and other's success. -Ol_C_Code

If only that were true. "World hunger has risen for three straight years, and climate change is a cause" https://phys.org/...ars.html
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Oct 22, 2018
old_coot, those you, who do not "get" the joke? Are the hapless "butts" of the joke!

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