Scientists fear that more than a million satellites would soon orbit our planet – Developpez.com

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Scientists have warned that more than a million satellites could soon be in low orbit above Earth as countries vie to launch thousands of communications satellites. According to researchers at the University of British Columbia, this number is more than 115 times higher than the number of satellites in orbit today. The “traffic jam” in low-Earth orbit could lead to light pollution and even collisions between satellites, experts warn.

The problem arises from “mega-constellations” of communications satellites (similar to Elon Musk’s Starlink, but much larger, with up to 300,000 satellites) that provide internet services from space. Scientists have already warned that Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites could kill someone within the next decade. Musk’s Starlink has launched 4,500 Starlink satellites in the last five years and now represents more than 50% of all active satellites orbiting the Earth. Jeff Bezos launched his first two Project Kuiper satellites this year, raising fears of a space race between the two billionaires.

The researchers write: “There will be approximately 4,500 Starlink satellites and 630 OneWeb satellites in orbit by July 2023, but this is just the beginning.”

Countries must submit applications for radio spectrum to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) before they can launch satellites, and recent applications suggest more than a million satellites could soon be launched among 300 mega-constellations. Scientists warn of a “dramatic increase” in the number of satellites that could even endanger scientific missions into space.

The researchers write: “Constellations much larger than SpaceX’s Starlink have been deposited, including a constellation of 337,320 satellites called Cinnamon-937 that was deposited in September 2021.”

The constellation Cinnamon-937 deposited in Rwanda is the largest constellation deposited to date.

Andrew Fall, a researcher at the University of British Columbia’s Outer Space Institute and lead author of the new study, said in an interview with Space.com: “If even a fraction of those million satellites are actually launched, nationally and internationally,” rules will be needed , to address related sustainability challenges such as collision risks, light pollution and atmospheric re-entry risks.

Researchers say it appears that the organizations are submitting the same constellation to multiple countries and that some of the proposed satellites may never be launched due to funding or technology problems. The lack of clarity highlights the problem of regulation in the sector, say researchers, who hope this year’s World Radiocommunication Conference, to be held in Dubai in November, will lead to better regulation of the issue.

The researchers write: “By treating orbital space as an unlimited resource, humanity is creating serious long-term safety and sustainability problems for the use of low Earth orbit (LEO), including for scientific work conducted from space and from the ground.” The The documents presented by the ITU represent a warning but also part of the solution.”

In 2019, the ITU introduced new rules for satellite constellations, requiring countries to launch 10% of a constellation within two years of the launch of the first satellite and the entire constellation within seven years.

Trap said: “This is a positive development, but the first satellite can be launched up to seven years after the first application was submitted. So it could take a decade until we know which constellations are realistic.”

Elon Musk’s thousands of Starlink satellites transmit signals from space for high-speed internet services to paying customers around the world. Tech billionaire Musk said last year: “We believe this is an important step towards building a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the Moon.”

The occupation of Earth’s orbit by large satellite constellations has attracted considerable attention in recent years. By July 2023, around 4,500 Starlink satellites and 630 OneWeb satellites will be in orbit, but that’s just the beginning. Recent applications for radio spectrum to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) suggest that a dramatic increase in the number of satellites is possible, far more than the often announced tens of thousands of satellites. Constellations much larger than SpaceX’s Starlink have been submitted, including a constellation of 337,320 satellites called Cinnamon-937, whose application was submitted in September 2021. By viewing orbital space as an unlimited resource, humanity is creating serious long-term safety and sustainability concerns about the use of low Earth orbit (LEO), including for scientific activities conducted from space and from the ground. The documents presented by the ITU represent a warning, but also part of the solution. It is urgent that the ITU and its member states introduce meaningful controls. Source: University of British Columbia researchers

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