Side Note

What does a satellite sound like?

An inside-view of the Orbit Pavilion nautilus.

An inside-view of the Orbit Pavilion nautilus.

Satellites in space feel like an abstract concept to us humans on earth. We can’t see any of them except the ISS in certain regions on an exceptionally clear night. But they have major geopolitical consequences on earth: The risk of satellite hacks has never been greater, and Trump continues to tout potential military applications of satellites.

CalTech’s Orbit Pavilion—a Nautilus-shaped sound pavilion designed by artists from StudioKCA and NASA—emulates and amplifies the sound of satellites soaring through space. The hypnotic music from the pavilion manages (pun warning) to bring satellites a little bit closer to earth.

The installation was created in 2016, and it was supposed to only last a couple of months. However, its stay was extended twice: first through the end of 2017, and then through September of this year.

The data used to create the sounds was collected by satellites owned and operated by the NASA, the International Space Station (ISS), and private companies like Orbital Sciences Corporation and Ball Aerospace & Technologies. Over the past several months, Trump administrators have worked to deregulate space in order to make it easier for as many private companies to launch as many satellites into space as possible. Companies like SpaceX want to create space settlements, Airbus Defense and Space is interested in space tourism, and Boeing is gunning ahead on surveillance satellites contracted to the U.S. military and other countries.

However, all of the satellites used for this project are expressly earth science satellites, only collecting data about the atmosphere and oceans and then sharing it with government agencies to learn more about the earth’s weather and climate.

Orbit Pavilion at The Huntington