California-based aerospace manufacturer, Space X has initiated plans to deploy close to 30 thousand satellites for its satellite constellation, Starlink.
The Starlink constellation mooted to provide satellite internet access coverage to a large proportion of the earth has grown to over 1700 satellites through 2021 and as at January 2020, became the largest satellite constellation ever launched.
But its latest 30,000 satellites deployment plan has elicited concerns and opposition from industry experts and some major companies and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has joined the fray.
The Space X owned constellation had previously gotten authorization for about 12,000 satellites that will offer broadband internet and its latest request for authorization of a second-generation constellation of 30,000 satellites is what is causing ripples.
The U.S government agency had written to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressing its reservations.
“NASA has concerns with the potential for a significant increase in the frequency of conjunction events and possible impacts to NASA’s science and human spaceflight missions.”
The agency further argued that as there are currently 25,000 total objects tracked on-orbit and about 6,100 below 600 km, the Gen2 expansion by SpaceX’s Gen2 “would more than double the number of tracked objects in orbit and increase the number of objects below 600 km over five-fold”.
Jonathan McDowell, a member of the American Astronomical Society panel examining the impacts of satellites on astronomy also shared similar concerns when he said:
“We’ve been concerned with having these large numbers of satellites that interfere with astronomical observations… I think we need a little more experience with the several thousand operating satellites before we can ramp up to the tens of thousands.”
Space X Founder, Billionaire Musk had January 15 revealed in a tweet that SpaceX had 1,469 Starlink active satellites, with 272 moving to operational orbits soon.
Other companies that have raised concerns with the FCC include e-commerce retailer, Amazon that had hitherto pledged to spend at least $10 billion in building 3,236 such satellites through its Project Kuiper program. Dish Network also raised its objections to Starlink constellation plans.
Amazon gave reasons for its latest objection as it said under SpaceX’s application, “at least hundreds and even more than ten thousand SpaceX satellites could operate at the same altitudes as the Kuiper System, warning that “the effect of this orbital overlap would be a dramatic increase in risks and other burdens on the Kuiper System” and asked the FCC to impose “reasonable conditions.