We already wrote about two companies that are engaged in private astronautics in Russia: CosmoCourse and Lin Industrial, but today’s material is devoted not to a company but a project of a team of enthusiasts from Russia, who have decided to launch a satellite using only their own strengths and crowdfunding platforms. We talked with Alexander Shaenko, head of the “Mayak” project, and discovered the details.


Alexander Shaenko


“Mayak” (Russian: “Маяк”) means “Lighthouse”

— Please tell us a few words about yourself and your company.

— I, Alexander Shaenko, am the head of the “Mayak” project and an engineer. I have worked more than ten years in the space industry; took park in the development of the “Angara-A5” and KSLV-1 launch vehicles, the Russian space observatory “Millimetron”, private Russian satellite DX1 of the Dauria Aerospace company. I was also the chief designer in the “Selenokhod” team — the only Russian participant of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. I am a Candidate of Technical Sciences and also taught at the Bauman Moscow State Technical University. Currently I supervise an educational program “Contemporary astronautics” at the University of Mechanical Engineering and am also the founder of the “Your Sector of Space” community.



“Mayak” team

— Who had the idea of creating “Mayak”?

— Today the “Mayak” project is already known; people write articles about it and make TV shows but few know what is started from. When I gave a lecture about the history of cosmonautics at the end of 2013, one of its organizers, Alexey Statsenko, has approached me and asked whether it is possible to launch a brick into space. “It is possible”, said I, “But why? No one will see it. It is much interesting to launch something that will be seen.” From this conversation an idea was born to launch a pyramid into space which will be the brightest star in the night sky of the Earth and will be visible throughout the world.


Team and the satellite

— How was the team formed?

— The start of the formation of the team was given by this post in the “Your Sector of Space” community.


— What are the goals of your project?

— The main objectives:

  1. Show on practice that space has become closer and more accessible and the launch of a space apparatus can be performed by friends and enthusiasts.
  2. Testing in a real flight the aerodynamic braking device which subsequently can be used for the removal of space debris from the orbit.
  3. Obtaining new information about air density at high altitude and using as a reference object for checking the calculations of the apparent magnitude.

“Mayak” in orbit

— How did you look for the funds for the project? Is there an investor?

— All funds for the project were initially collected through crowdfunding. We have successfully conducted two campaigns in Russia to perform the necessary tests and have recently launched a campaign on Kicksarter for the production of the flight model.

— At what stage is the project? Is the launch date already known?

— At the moment we are conducting tests which are required for the orbital launch of the satellite. We share reports of the carried out tests on the page of our latest campaign on Boomstarter. Launch is scheduled for August 2016.


Disclosure system tests

— “Mayak” will be seen from the southern or the northern hemisphere? Why an app is required for the search of “Mayak”, if this “star” will be the brightest in the sky?

— “Mayak” will move in a sun-synchronous orbit and so it can be seen from any part of the world. An object, located in such an orbit, passes over any point on the Earth’s surface at about the same local solar time on several occasions. The app was created to “catch” our “Mayak” when it will once again fly over our heads.

— Were there such bright space apparatus as “Mayak” before?

— Yes, of course. The brightest was the “Znamya 2”.

— The aerodynamic braking device can be installed on any satellite? How much time will the removal of the satellite from the orbit with the use of this device take?

— Yes, the aerodynamic braking device can be put on any satellite, but it will work effectively only at altitudes up to one thousand kilometers above the Earth. The removal time depends on the height of the orbit, satellite mass and the size of the aerodynamic braking device. “Mayak”, for example, weighting four kilograms and with the size of the midsection of about four square meters, descends from the orbit in about 550 kilometers of height per month.

— What biggest challenges you encountered while working on the project?

— The biggest challenge is the organization of work of the enthusiasts.

— Does the state support you? If yes, then how?

— Yes. Among other student projects we have received from Roscosmos the possibility of delivering our satellite on their launch vehicle.

— What companies do you cooperate with?

— We have several major technical partners which provide their laboratories and stands for tests. The key partners: MAMI (Moscow State University of Mechanical Engineering), CPTA (Centre of perspective technologies and equipment), lights shop “SuperFonarik” and the organizer of flights into the stratosphere “Blizhniy Kosmos”.



— What are your plans for the future?

— To conquer space.


The head of the psychological relief department

If you are interested in the project you can support it on Kickstarter; latest news regarding “Mayak” can be found in their VK group.