Internet connects us all like the neurons in our brain. We can barely think of a normal day without connectivity.
Better network services have been desirable all across the planet, even in least developed nations for the range of services it provides and the relevant entities are placing herculean efforts into this request.
On such lines, SpaceX has launched more satellites called Starlink that aims to install more ground stations and consequently improve our networking software, data speed, latency and even uptime.
Starlink satellites are over 60 times closer to Earth than traditional satellites, resulting in lower latency and providing anyway 47% faster Internet than optical fibres.
The parent company has already launched 600+ new Starlinks this year, at the rate of 60 satellites per launch. Currently, there are around 1500 satellites in Earth’s orbit and there are plans to send up at least 12,000 Starlink satellites in recent years too.
The total number of active and defunct satellites in Earth’s lower orbit closer to the Earth below 620 miles (1,000 km), has thereby increased by 50% over the past two years.
Hence, our Earth is going to be encapsulated by a layer of satellites, the kids may mistake a satellite for a Star.
But what will be other implications of such huge number of Satellites in our orbits?
The space researchers had believed (for true) that the amount of burnt up material in space due to encounter of Earth and meteoroids was way higher than the amount of burnt up lost and defunct satellites.
Will the artificial mega-constellation change that?
Fortunately, no. Every day, approximately 54 tonnes (60 tons) of meteoroid material already comes in contact with Earth. Starlink will not outweigh the mass.
Another Ozone hole in making after years of restrictions: a foresight
According to paper published May 20 in the journal Scientific Reports: “With the first generation of Starlink, we can expect about 2 tonnes (2.2 tons) of dead satellites re-entering Earth’s atmosphere daily.”
“But meteoroids are mostly rock, which is made of oxygen, magnesium and silicon. These satellites are mostly aluminum, which the meteoroids contain only in a very small amount, about 1%.”
The chemicals supposedly released while defunct satellites burn up in the atmosphere could destroy Earth’s protective ozone layer. Other previous researches have also identified the damage.
Humanity has survived widespread bans on the use of chlorofluorocarbons and other potent ozone-eating chemicals used in the past in aerosol sprays and refrigerators.
“We know that alumina does deplete ozone just from rocket launches themselves because a lot of solid-fuel rockets use, or have, alumina as a by-product”.
“That creates these little temporary holes in the stratospheric ozone layer. That’s one of the biggest concerns about compositional changes to the atmosphere that spaceflight can cause.”
Why this is bad?
Ozone layer is the protector and sustainer of life on Earth as it does not let the harmful UV rays fall in. It is found and formed in Stratosphere and any damage to Ozone layer can lead to cancers and eye damage for humans.
Satellites are known to be made of aluminum. With increase in space fleet, certainly the amount of aluminum deposited in the atmosphere will increase, threatening the earlier-severely hit and now rejuvenating Ozone layer further.
Space-vehicle triggered another geoengineering experiment:
Researchers have cautioned that the poorly understood atmospheric processes and the change in chemistry of the upper atmosphere compared to its natural state can subsequently lead to an uncontrolled geoengineering experiment.
One of the researchers involved with the study explains: “Alumina reflects light at certain wavelengths and if you dump enough alumina into the atmosphere, you are going to create scattering and eventually change the albedo of the planet”.
Increasing Earth’s albedo means increasing its ability to reflect sunlight.
This unintentional pumping of certain types of chemicals into the higher layers of the atmosphere can become an unregulated geoengineering solution.
“Now it looks like we are going to run this experiment without any oversight or regulation. We don’t know what the thresholds are, and how that will change the upper atmosphere.”
Light pollution: Growing stars in the dark
According to an earlier report, light pollution has been increasing at an average of 2 percent a year on global level and hence, skies are getting brighter than ever.
Affecting human health, animal feeding habits and even the radiation absorption scenario, it’s a bigger tragedy that has been neglected easily in past 50 years.
Space Debris: the worst of nightmares
With increased concern about colonizing space, there are great numbers of satellites already cluttering and ready to invade space.
With SpaceX in the game, the scenario is changing fast. In order to get things right, SpaceX has pledged to collaborate with the astronomical community and modify the design of their satellites to efficiently mitigate the problem.
Early this year, Musk has launched the $100 million Carbon Removal X Prize, to develop technologies capable of curbing the worst effects of human-caused climate change.
Abandoning the idea?
Anticipating its effects, the U.S. telecommunications operator Viasat has sent its request to the US Federal Communications Commission for the launches of SpaceX’s Starlink mega-constellation to be suspended until a proper environmental review is undertaken.
The researcher “Humans are exceptionally good at underestimating our ability to change the environment. There is this perception that there is no way that we can dump enough plastic into the ocean to make a difference. There is no way we can dump enough carbon into the atmosphere to make a difference.”
“But here we are. We have a plastic pollution problem with the ocean, we have climate change ongoing as a result of our actions and our changing of the composition of the atmosphere and we are poised to make the same type of mistake by our use of space.”