Who owns the sky? Who owns the stars? The privatization of the space is a topic that is not much discussed yet, but that is already beginning to raise a lot of controversy Translated by Alissa D’Vale from Italian).
In many parts of the world, a lot of people have started to report unidentified objects flying over our heads at night. It was then understood that those luminous bodies, which ran fast and especially aligned in a well-defined trajectory were nothing but satellites.
About forty to be specific, built by the SpaceX company, property of Elon Musk.
The project, which consists of sending approximately 12,000 “micro-satellites” into terrestrial orbit in order to provide broadband Internet connectivity throughout the earth, entered the operational phase in 2018, when sending off the first satellites. The launches take place in Cape Canaveral, Florida: the NASA launch base from which the most important space missions started. There, Elon Musk rented one of the launch platforms, specifically the one from which the Apollo missions were launched.
To put these satellites into the orbit, a “carrier” named Falcon 9 is used. Its most innovative characteristic is its reusability: this rocket has the ability to re-enter to the atmosphere by free fall in complete autonomy, after launching its “load”, moving and stabilizing itself thanks to 4 retractable titanium flaps, which re-starts the engines to stop its fall and land on its feet. That is thanks to the 3 retractable feet that extend a few meters before landing on the ground or on a floating platform, designed for a ship that stations in the Atlantic Ocean, or on a landing pad in Cape Canaveral.
This is exactly the strength of the Starlink project: every other rocket can only be used for a single launch since it is destroyed as it returns to Earth, generating prohibitive costs. By using the Falcon 9 to launch satellites over and over again, it will be possible to drastically decrease costs, with a success of 98% at the moment.
From the name of the project, it is clear that the aim is to create a “new artificial constellation” above our heads. Musk is not the only one! Another private company, OneWeb, is developing a similar project with more than 600 satellites and Amazon and Facebook (but not the only ones) are also carrying out numerous studies in the sector.
A warning has been raised by astronomers: we will risk not seeing natural constellations anymore, which are already partially obscured by the reflections of solar panels. From the first launches and from the orbit of the first 60 satellites, scientists have already noticed how the photos taken by space observers were much more “faded”, making it impossible to study other celestial bodies. It would seem that in every part of the world, at any moment, it is possible to recognize up to twenty luminous points moving simultaneously: satellites, in fact.
Exactly for this reason, numerous exponents of the scientific world have asked for an immediate stop to the Starlink project and to all the other ongoing studies. Pointing out that, in addition to the “natural” damage, there would be a high risk of collision between satellites – also with the production of a multitude of debris – which would make any other space mission and the operation of existing satellite communications impossible.
Therefore, will new regulations be needed? Will it be necessary to regulate the quantity of artificial bodies in the atmosphere? All questions will surely be answered in the short term. So, at the moment, who owns the sky? We do? Or Elon’s and all his other visionary friends?
Original article: La proprietà privata è arrivata alle stelle
To know more: Property Rights in Space