How A Startup Is Launching Art Into Space

Planet Labs may be the only satellite company with an artist-in-residence program. The first to take up this position, Forest Stearns, created laser-etched art for the startup’s shoebox-sized satellites before sending them off into orbit.

More recently, Stearns–now the company’s art director–picked out artist George Zisiadis to create works of satellite-inspired art. We’ve written about Zisiadis’s art, including his music-generating oversized hearts and a mistletoe drone, before. He brings this same playful sensibility to Planet Labs.

“I was constantly surrounded by discussion of how to optimize packability of the satellites. Trips to space are expensive, so cargo space is at a premium. With engineers burnt out on thinking about this problem, it was a perfect opportunity to reimagine their designs from a fresh and humorous perspective. To help them see their work in a new light,” he writes in an email.

Zisiadis satellite-inspired artwork includes a poster series imagining satellites in Tetris shapes, photos of the human eye mashed up with images from a satellite’s telescope lens, and a series of napkin sketches inspired by employee ideas for fun things to do in space (like playing asteroid pong). Check Zisiadis’s satellite art in the slide show above.

It’s unlikely that Planet Labs will ever build Tetris-shaped satellites, but it’s entirely possible that Zisiadis’s artwork could end up on the company’s satellites in some form or another. Whether they’ll make it up to space is another question. The company’s latest batch of 26 satellites were recently lost in the Antares rocket explosion.AS