Satellite Internet access pollutes more than terrestrial access – Le Journal de Montréal

For several years now, constellations of satellites have been growing above our heads in low orbits. These thousands of satellites are intended to provide internet access to isolated populations by covering almost the entire Earth’s surface. These include SpaceX’s Starlink programs (more than 4,000 satellites already in orbit), Amazon’s Kuiper (more than 3,000) and OneWeb (more than 600). However, this form of air connection has proven to be far more harmful to the environment than conventional land connections.

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The activity of these satellites has numerous negative impacts on the environment, in particular due to the burning of fuel in the rockets responsible for their launch and the resulting emissions.

A study conducted by American and British researchers specializing in astrophysics shows that in all scenarios over the next five years we will see 31 to 91 times higher CO2 emissions per participant than those produced at equivalent mobile land speeds. , so all hypotheses tested.

It goes without saying that the most powerful solution to reducing this pollution is to make strategic decisions about the design of rockets and the fuel they carry. Especially since most of the programs examined aim to launch thousands more satellites very soon. Therefore, it is necessary to develop more sustainable technologies both in the design of rockets and satellites and in the composition of the fuel they carry.

Therefore, these satellite constellations currently pose a problem for the environment and the more they are deployed, the more harmful they will be. They are also a source of space pollution.

In fact, each satellite has a life expectancy of just a few years as it is currently neither recoverable nor recyclable. At the end of their lives, they either disintegrate by falling back into the atmosphere or wander endlessly in orbit. Not to mention that they also need to be replaced with new operational satellites.

However, so much waste and potential space debris can cause major damage. For example, the repeated destruction of satellites could lead to new holes in the ozone layer, due to gases produced in the air by the combustion of the aluminum contained in these devices.

Another challenge is therefore to limit the presence of these wastes in the air. With this in mind, several projects have already been announced, such as sending a satellite to collect several others and detonate them upon re-entry into the atmosphere. Another solution would be to introduce some kind of power service for orbiting satellites.