The moment I read about Elon Musk’s Starlink program which would place in orbit over 10,000 satellites in low orbit (500 Km), I though to myself “This is a disaster in search of a bible proportion moment”.
Being a licensed radio operator hobbyist and having been interested in what goes on in the sky for decades, I couldn’t help myself but to envision a global SNAFU.
By the way, I was wrong. Starlink doesn’t want to put 10,000 satellites in orbit, they plan to place over 42,000 satellites in low orbit, and the life expectancy of each satellite is approximately 5 years. This means that every 10 years, Starlink needs to place in low orbit over 100,000 satellites and has no clear answer about what happens to dead satellites, or the debry field created by collisions. Knowing that the average speed of these satellites is 24,000 Kilometers per hour, you can’t imagine how alarming this is .
Fortunately, I am not alone in my worries and I found a video produced by the youtube channel “Common Sense Skeptic”, which summarizes my fears about Starlink. Hang on to you hats … it’s going to be bumpy reentry.
If you are an amateur astronomer, you have probably heard about the growling these satellites have introduced in that field. In astronomy, getting images of faint and distant objects require long expositions, but the longer you let light in the telescope, the grater the chance of catching the train of a Starlink satellite.
Here are a few astronomy images ruined by these Starlink garbage cans.
Each white lines is a low orbit satellite photobombing the observation. Scarry right?
If you ever wondered how many satellites or “junk” is in orbit around our planet, these cool websites track objects in orbit around our planet. Each dot is either a satellite, or a known space junk being tracked.
I will admit, the use of Starlink to give Ukraine a leg up with its war against Russia seemed to give browny points to Starlink. But that feeling is short lived when you consider the greater impact Starlink has on the global scale.
We can bring high speed internet to each homes, and we will, using cables, and very short distance wireless. And this, with better bandwidth and more reliability than what Starlink has to offer. Let’s just stop this MAD endeavor before its too late and takes us a century to clean up.
Update Feb 2023: I asked ChatGPT to elaborate on issues caused by Starlink. Here is its answer:
The Starlink satellite constellation, launched by SpaceX, has the potential to have a significant impact on astronomy due to the large number of satellites in orbit. The impact includes:
- Light pollution: The satellites reflect sunlight, causing them to appear as bright streaks in the night sky, which can interfere with observations and potentially affect long-exposure images.
- Radio frequency interference: The satellites emit radio signals for communication, which can interfere with radio telescopes and other scientific instruments that operate in similar frequency ranges.
- Space debris: The satellites are at risk of colliding with each other and producing space debris that could pose a risk to other spacecraft in orbit.
- Impact on radio astronomy: The frequency bands used by the Starlink system overlap with those used by radio telescopes, which can cause interference and make it difficult to observe faint signals from distant objects.
To mitigate these impacts, SpaceX has taken steps to reduce the reflectivity of the satellites and has worked with astronomers and other experts to address the concerns raised by the scientific community. They have also launched a sunshade system to reduce the reflectivity of the satellites. However, the impact of the Starlink constellation on astronomy is an ongoing issue and will likely require continued collaboration between the scientific community and the private sector to address.