Russia has plans to turn night into day with its Giant Russian Space Mirror: Turning night into day is the exact kind of thing one might expect to see in a dystopian science fiction setting. But it is what scientists and engineers in Russia attempted to do. In today’s article, we’ll delve deep into the story of the Russian space mirror and how it attempted to turn night into day.
This may sound like a scheme that only an observer can imagine, but during the 1990s, a group of Russian scientists and engineers designed a gadget that redirected sunlight back into space on Earth.
This was his first time to develop something truly meaningful and revolutionary after drastic budget cuts following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Acting like a giant mirror, the device was intended to prolong daylight hours, provide solar power to power, and, possibly, one day, power spaceships. For a brief moment, it actually worked. Yes, this plan from the comic supervisor or AI villain of a science-fiction story worked.
The project to build the Znamya or ‘banner’ as it was called, began in the late 1980s to test the technology that would extend the length of a day with the goal of increasing productivity in farms and cities in the then Soviet Union.
Providing sunlight at night could save billions of dollars in electric lighting costs each year, extend twilight hours during planting and harvesting seasons to assist farmers, allow more work on large construction projects. and assist in rescue and recovery operations after natural disasters such as earthquakes.
A consortium of state-owned companies and agencies in Russia, headed by the NPO Energia Space Company, sponsored the mirror-solar cell demonstration. The project used some donated equipment, and engineers and technicians are volunteering their time.
Proponents of the project hoped that a successful test would help attract financial support from Western companies and the Russian government. The idea of using giant spotlight-like mirrors in space was proposed in 1929 by German scientist and space visionary Hermann Oberth.
The idea was further developed by scientists in the United States and the former Soviet Union, where it became particularly popular due to its potential usefulness for illumination in northern Siberia and other regions near the Arctic Circle during the long polar nights.
Although both the Pentagon and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States considered solar reflector constructions from time to time over the past two decades, they never developed them due to budget constraints and lack of confidence.
Russian scientists and theorists, on the other hand, were eagerly proposing solar reflective systems that could continuously illuminate areas the size of several cities each night. The most ambitious proposal involved a constellation of 100 reflectors each 1,300 feet in diameter, with a surface area of 30 acres.
Proponents say that the initial operational systems planned to place 24 to 36 mirrors either 620 miles or 3,700 miles above in northern tilt orbits, using reflectors with a diameter of 650 feet.
A reflector can illuminate a spot on its own, or several can be focused on a single area for continuous illumination or greater brightness, producing up to 50 full moons of light.
These mirrors, which will pivot as they pass over to keep their light in the same spot, can illuminate surface areas 35 miles to 55 miles across. Of course, the plan was not without severe criticism as others wondered about the potential environmental impacts of disrupting the normal day-night cycle of animals and plants, especially if the practice became widespread.
Even extended daylight would have negatively affected the development and behavior of flora and fauna and could affect local weather.
After Soviet scientists first proposed launching a demonstration reflector satellite in 1984, the Soviet Academy of Sciences established a committee to investigate potential ecological impacts.
Proponents of space mirrors state that to date there is no evidence that reflected sunlight will cause harm, although recent research has proved otherwise in several cases. He did at the time the need for in-depth environmental studies.
Light from space would be clean and renewable, he noted, replacing the electricity generated and associated pollution. Znamya’s lead engineer, Vladimir Siromatnikov, knew his stuff.
Siromatnikov was known for his brilliant engineering when it came to space. He previously worked on Vostok, the spacecraft that propelled Yuri Gagarin into orbit in 1961 as the first man to travel into space.
Many of his designs for spacecraft docking mechanisms were still used in shuttles that flew to the International Space Station. Syromyatnikov may have made a name for himself with docking mechanisms, but in the late 1980s, his passion project was developing solar sails that propel the stars through space by riding the radiation pressure of the stars like a ship’s sail in the wind. Could propel the vehicle forward.
But Soviet leaders at the time were obsessed with extending the workday to maximize productivity, so Siromatnikov erected these solar sails as a means of redirecting sunlight back toward Earth, Merchant writes.
Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Siromyatnikov continued to work on the project, and in 1993 he had a chance to put Znamya to the test. Funded by a collection of Russian state-owned corporations, Siromatnikov built a 65-foot-wide sheet of Mylar that could be deployed from a central apparatus and launched from the Mir space station.
The initial plan was to have the Progress spacecraft carry the 88-pound Banner experiment as a secondary payload docked with the Mir space station.
The plans then called for the Mir astronauts to fit a drum containing the banners in Progress’s docking port before the unmanned supply ship left the station.
When Pragati is 500 feet from Mir, Banner had to be deployed by an electric motor that spins its drum and opens its eight-section reflector disc like a Japanese fan. The mirror will orbit at an altitude of about 225 miles and will appear like a bright star from Earth.
Its designers state that the plastic reflector had no support frame and that its circular shape had to be maintained by the rotation of the drum. Falling into a lower orbit than Mir, Pragati will use maneuvering thrusters to point and position the mirrors to reflect sunlight at specific locations on Earth.
After three to five days of testing, both Banner and Progress were to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up. Actually, the banner was launched on the Progress M-15 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 27 October 1992.
After visiting the EO-12 crew aboard the Mir space station, Progress T-15 undocked and deployed the reflector next to the Russian Mir space station from the end of the Russian Progress spacecraft on 4 February 1993.
The mirror was successfully deployed and, when illuminated, produced a bright spot 5 km wide, which crossed Europe from southern France to western Russia at a speed of 8 km/h.
The bright spot had a brightness roughly equal to that of a full moon. Although clouds had covered much of Europe that morning, some ground observers reported that a flash of light appeared as the beam swept through.
The mirror was removed from orbit after several hours and burned up in atmospheric re-entry over Canada. Reception at the base by the Russian Federal Space Agency was joyous and optimistic and plans to build a successor were worked out, even though the prototype fell short of initial expectations.
Two more prototypes were conceived in the following years, and the Znamya 2.5 was the successor to the Znamya 2, which was deployed on 5 February 1999.
It was 25 meters in diameter and was expected to produce a bright spot 7 km in diameter, with a luminosity between five and ten full moons. However, soon after deployment, the mirror got stuck on an antenna in progress and exploded.
After several futile attempts by Russian Mission Control to free the mirror from the antenna, Znamya 2.5 was ejected from orbit and burned upon re-entry.
It was determined that this accident could have been avoided if some of the best engineers and scientists of the Soviet era were kept in Russia, with a very obvious problem regarding the lack of proper funding.
This was during the worst economic and social period faced by former constituents of Russia and the Soviet Union in general. Russia was also engaged in fighting the First Chechen War and acts of terrorism, both of which were very difficult conflicts, and threatened the collapse of the federal government.
The Znamya 3 prototype was planned, but confidence soon evaporated, and funding dried up even further. Thus it was never pursued. It is impossible to say what heights this project could have reached if the tests were successful.
Still, the future leaves us open to another aerospace organization that takes the concept and makes it a reality.
so what do you think? Do you think its development should have been pursued with more enthusiasm? Or do you think the potential environmental cost was enormous at the time?
Thanks for reading till the end. Comment what’s your opinion about this information “Russia has plans to turn night into day with its Giant Russian Space Mirror”.
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Information Source: Youtube – Futurephile