At first, they presented a new type of celestial spectacle. But Space’s Starlink internet satellites, which travel across the sky in neat formations after each batch of mega-constellation spacecraft are launched, have long annoyed astronomers.
According to Thomas Schildknecht, Deputy Director of the Astronomical Institute of the University of Berne, Switzerland, who currently represents Switzerland, IAU decided to refer the matter to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS). MAC. The Organization of Astronomers Asks UN COPUOS to Protect the Darkness of the Sky for Future Advances in Astronomy.
“These trains are beautiful and impressive, but do we really want to see them everywhere?” Schildknecht said April 20 at a press conference hosted by the European Space Agency (ESA) during the 8th European Space Debris Conference, which was held virtually in Darmstadt, Germany, April 20-23. “Do we want to see them in the Australian outback? Antarctica? Or in the very dark regions of Chile? Probably not “.
Connected: No, they’re not aliens – SpaceX’s Starlink satellites surprise observers
Astronomers complained about stripes disrupting their sightings since then SpacexOperator Starlink, in 2019, began launching a mega-constellation emitting over the Internet into low Earth orbit. SpaceX currently has permission to launch 12,000 satellites, but the company plans to launch up to 30,000 spacecraft. There are many and fast launches, up to four per month, each launching up to 60 satellites into orbit.
“Not only stripes, but diffuse background light and radio noise from these satellites can prevent us from gaining access to the sky,” Shildknecht said. “It could cut us off from accessing knowledge about our universe.”
SpaceX acknowledged the problem and tried reduce the amount of light reflected from satellites. Astronomers, however, said mitigation measures are still insufficient.
The IAU, Schildknecht said, is asking UN COPUOS to develop rules that would limit the brightness of satellites in megaconstellations, and to ask operators to share their satellite orbit data with astronomers so that they can more easily avoid stripes in their observations.
Report: Satellite megaconstellations could have an ‘extreme’ impact on astronomy
The efforts of SpaceX, as well as other aspiring mega-constellation developers such as Amazon and OneWeb, who launched 36 new satellites for their constellation on Sunday, worry the global space community not only because of the impact on astronomical observations, but also because of the dangers they pose. present. satellites pose for an already cluttered orbital space.
Operators of the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, are required to conduct evasive maneuvers on average every two weeks over a fleet of 20 ESA spacecraft controlled from the center, Holger Krag, head of ESA’s Space Safety Program, said during a press conference. … But many more events generate warnings and must be judged even if the evasive maneuver is ultimately not carried out.
Nearly half of all of these warnings are related to objects in large constellations or small satellites, the agency added in a written statement to Space.com. “These two classes are the ones that have increased the most over the past few years and are projected to continue to grow,” the ESA said in a statement.
Connected: This is how SpaceX’s Starlink satellites looked for the first time in the sky
Space debris experts have long warned of deteriorating orbital environment… They say the rules were drawn up a long time ago, when there were far fewer satellites flying around the earth. To make matters worse, guidelines such as requiring a spacecraft to be de-orbited within 25 years of the completion of a mission are not always followed. According to ESA, only about 20% of satellites in low Earth orbit are successfully decommissioned at the end of their mission.
According to ESAAbout 11,370 satellites have been launched since 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched a sonic balloon called Sputnik into orbit. About 6,900 of these satellites remain in orbit, but only 4,000 continue to function.
Launching more than a hundred satellites every month, Starlink could wreak havoc on an already dangerous orbital environment.
“Hundreds of satellites are launched in one month, and this is much more than we launched in a whole year,” said Schildknecht. “Even after post-mission disposal, if we want to ensure long-term sustainable use of space, we will come to a point in certain orbital regions where we have to decide on maximum capacity. We will need to decide if we can safely launch 10,000 more new satellites. ”
Follow Teresa Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.