NASA is speaking for the first time on a private company's application to build a mega-satellite network. Its message is clear: the move could be tragic.
AST & Science (AST) plans to launch 240 large 4G service satellites that will beam down and potentially do the same for a 5G network if everything goes to plan, Ars Technica says. Since the satellites will be too huge, NASA noted that these satellites could cause thousands of probable accidents every year. AST claims it is dedicated to trying to solve the problem with NASA.
Other mega-constellations such as Starlink often face risks of collision. Still, Ars states that it is the huge scale of these telecom satellites and the inexperience of AST in constructing something so big that NASA is particularly worried.
Given the lack of expertise, NASA proposed that up to 10% of the satellites might crash. The possible event may generate an "unacceptably high" chance of a "catastrophic collision."
The satellites will be fitted with huge antennas up to 900 square meters in height to transmit 4G and potentially 5G signals. Given their similarity to other satellites expected, NASA claims that's a tragedy waiting to occur.
"For the completed constellation of 243 satellites, one can expect 1,500 mitigation actions per year and perhaps 15,000 planning activities," reads NASA's statement. "This would equate to four maneuvers and 40 active planning activities on any given day."
Given the size of these particular satellites, NASA told FCC failure rates in the range of what has been observed with recent large constellation efforts would present an unacceptably high risk of a catastrophic debris-producing collision.
What About the FCC?
It is unknown how FCC could address the concerns of NASA, which understands a thing or two about space and is speaking out for the first time.
The FCC has been calling the debris challenge when it comes to placing hundreds, if not thousands, of new satellites into low-Earth orbit when it comes to mega-constellations, including SpaceX's Starlink, OneWeb, and others. Therefore, since the federal agency has two opposing priorities, it would be important to see what path the FCC is going on this issue.
Generally, when it comes to granting spectrum licenses to satellite providers, the FCC has become incredibly permissive. Brian Weeden, a satellite specialist at the Safe Planet Foundation, claimed he's "not aware" of any case of the FCC refusing such a license.
"They're trying to be business friendly and encourage companies to be doing business in the US," Weeden said.
Raymond Sedwick, AST's chief scientist for space systems, said their organization is 'confident that [they] will collaborate with them to resolve their issues."
Almost all of these forms of planning applications have been accepted by the FCC so far, but if NASA advises you that the space mission is risky, then it's worth getting a bit of a rethink.
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