Korean artist Song Hojun is on a one-man mission to enter the space race          

Wired, June 2012

On 31 August, Korean artist Song Hojun plans to launch a tiny satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The 10cm3 shiny metal cube has as its payload four bright white LEDs that can be seen from Earth. Once it is in orbit — at an inclination of 64.9 degrees, if all goes well — anyone with a standard radio transmitter will be able to send it messages, which will be flashed back to Earth in Morse code.

Rather than rely on a team of specialists, Song, 33, has designed and built the satellite himself. “I wanted everything to be built by hand, not computer-machined, to show that anyone can build a satellite,” he says. “Scientifically, it is useless — it’s like a Sputnik. The question is: which is more important, the art or the science? I am from an engineering background but I was wondering why you have to choose to become an engineer or to do something like literature, say. I don’t like that choice.”

The satellite should remain in orbit for a year, and its message-sending slots will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis. But you’ll have to be careful you don’t miss yours: “Due to power issues, the messages will be a once-a-day event, lasting 16 seconds,” says Song. “It’s sort of like a space tweet.”

yet to come — actually launching it into space. The satellite will be hitching a ride on a Soyuz rocket launching a much bigger Russian biological research satellite, containing mice and geckos. To buy his tiny satellite a ticket on that ride, Song needs to raise $100,000 (£65,000). He has printed 10,000 T-shirts to sell at $10 (£6.50), but so far has sold only 200. “The project has been a total failure from a business point of view,” he says.

What’s more, the launch date is much earlier than he was expecting and finishing the satellite on time will be a challenge. “It is a big test,” he says. “Is there enough time? It is almost devastating but I have to do it. I feel confident I will get the satellite finished, but I need to recruit someone to work on the T-shirts.” Any volunteers?