(ORDO NEWS) — Space is this last frontier and it may very soon become crowded.
There are currently around 2,200 satellites orbiting Earth, but telecommunications companies regularly launch dozens of new satellites in pursuit of high-speed broadband Internet access throughout the world.
How many satellites are we preparing? The London OneWeb planned to launch around 400 this year and eventually have 650 in orbit. SpaceX Ilona Musk has launched 240 into orbit since last spring and may launch another 1,000 by the end of this year. The company hopes to deploy up to 42,000 satellites for its Starlink Internet system.
In order not to stay away from the game, Amazon plans to create its own space-based Internet system Project Kuiper with the launch of more than 3000 satellites.
This is a large number of satellites that can fill the sky over the next decade. Now is the time to create an international organization consisting of satellite companies, scientists and government representatives that will provide some control over how many satellites revolve around the Earth.
Although providing global Internet access will open the door for nearly 3 billion people who are currently offline, the launch of these “megast constellations” of satellites has caused scientists and space officials to worry about the impact of so many orbital devices on humanity.
Some scientists fear that a huge number of satellites may “destroy” the stars to such an extent that observing the universe using telescopes from the Earth will be practically impossible. They can also affect astronomical research, disrupting the radio frequencies used for observation in deep space.
And there is also concern about the amount of space debris that can float around. We already have millions of pieces of garbage – from abandoned satellites or pieces of spaceships – in space. Overflowing the sky with tens of thousands of new satellites increases the risk of more fragments falling out, as well as the likelihood of debris entering other satellites. At the end of the 70s, NASA scientist Donald Kessler put forward a theory – the Kessler effect – that floating debris could create a catastrophic collision chain that would create a space debris field and make space travel difficult.
Most astronomers doubt that there is a real danger from the Kessler effect, but controlling satellite trajectories and avoiding collisions will require much greater vigilance. Earlier this year, the possibility of a collision of two satellites over Pittsburgh attracted widespread attention. A NASA spokesman said that if thousands more satellites are launched into orbit, collision avoidance maneuvers will increase from “three per day to eight per hour.”
The good news is that before companies launch satellites, they must submit plans to their country’s regulatory authorities. They should provide an analysis of collision risks and suggestions for a safe arch of satellites from orbit – most of them will burn in the Earth’s atmosphere.
However, the possibility that another 50,000 satellites could be put into orbit within a decade requires some international attention and cooperation. Taking action now to limit exposure may make the sky a little clearer for future research.
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