The FCC, popular “American Anatel”, authorized SpaceX to launch another 7,500 Starlink satellites. The equipment integrates the second generation of satellites, which are larger and have an extra antenna. Even without being launched yet, the satellites worry the world astronomical community.
The number of satellites authorized by the FCC is less than a third of the original order. In 2020, SpaceX requested permission to launch 29,988 second-generation satellites. These new satellites will orbit at altitudes of 525 km, 530 km and 535 km.
The second generation of SpaceX satellites is bigger than the first. One of the reasons is the adoption of a large “extra” antenna so that they support communication with cell phones. In other words, the “Gen 2” also functions as a mobile phone antenna — only in low earth orbit 🇧🇷LEOin the acronym in English).
The appeal is the result of a partnership, announced in August, between SpaceX and T-Mobile🇧🇷 In this way, the two companies hope to eliminate “dead zones” in telephone signal coverage — even in the middle of the oceans.
However, the authorization of another 7,500 satellites will be more of a headache for the scientific community, including NASA — SpaceX’s client.
Too much satellite for too little sky
A few years ago, since when the internet via satellite began to popularize, astronomers began to suffer with observations in terrestrial telescopes. The most recent data, released in 2020, show that 20% of the images captured from Earth record interference from satellites in LEO.
These interferences usually appear as scratches in the images. Starlink is not the only company in this field, there is OneWeb, Amazon with Project Kuiper, Viasat and even Boeing wants to get in on the action. However, SpaceX’s satellite internet is the company with the most equipment in operation. There are more than 2,200 satellites in LEO, out of a planned total of 10,500.
OneWeb satellites operate above 600 km in height, as well as some Project Kuiper equipment – which should debut in 2023. The height difference does not change much in interference. In long-exposure images, satellites above 600 km reflected light longer. SpaceX equipment is a problem during the late afternoon (dusk). Starlink’s new satellites use a “shield” to absorb light and lessen interference.
But the light-absorbing technology does not reduce another problem: space pollution and the risk of collisions. A World Economic Forum survey released in 2020 pointed out that there were 2,666 operational satellites in Earth orbit. Today, that’s pretty much all Starlink has.
With more satellites in orbit, NASA and other space agencies are affected. The huge amount of this equipment reduces the number (and time) of launch windows for space missions. By the way, even SpaceX will suffer from this – the company is contracted to use its rockets in launches of other companies.
With information: Engadget and World Economic Forum