As entrepreneurs race to launch thousands of broadband-emitting spacecraft into orbit, the United Kingdom has developed guidelines to prevent uncontrolled signal interference.
Elon Musk's SpaceX and Starlink are launching satellites at breakneck speed in an attempt to blanket the Earth with high-speed Internet, with OneWeb and Amazon following closely behind.
Satellite Constellations To Block Other Communications?
Ars Technica said that the British communications regulator, Ofcom expressed alarm on Monday that these so-called satellite constellations could block one another's communications.
Satellite systems would be scrutinized under the new criteria to see if they could degrade other services or damage competition. Ofcom would disclose details of the licenses it plans to grant, which would necessitate technical cooperation among enterprises, and would give Ofcom the authority to handle cases of interference in the United Kingdom. Changes would be made to the company's limited number of current licenses.
The consultation with Ofcom is set to end on September 20, 2021, Ars Technica added.
What is a Low Earth Orbit?
ESA said that a low Earth orbit (LEO) is an orbit that is quite close to the Earth's surface, as the name implies. It is generally less than 1000 kilometers above Earth's surface. However, it might also be as low as 160 kilometers, a low altitude relative to other orbits, but still a long way above the planet's surface.
Musk's SpaceX has already launched thousands of Starlink satellites, as Science Times reported. The billionaire entrepreneur claims that the network will be fully operational by next month, except in the polar areas. CityAm said that OneWeb, one of Starlink's competitors, has launched over 250 satellites and aims to provide broadband to governments and corporations.
Ofcom said in their lincensing updates on Non-geostationary satellite systems that they do not think they could solely rely on the International Telecommunication Union framework to effectively deal with all concerns impacting non-geostationary satellite orbit services provided in the U.K. Ofcom is referring to a United Nations agency made up of the world's telecommunications regulators. This update is also reported by Bloomberg.
Mega-constellation Sattelites at the Risk of Huge Collisions
Meanwhile, reports from The Independent claim that the rapid creation of mega-satellite constellations threatens "possibly hazardous on-orbit accidents frequently."
According to the study of Aaron Boley and Michael Byers titled "Satellite Mega-Constellations Create Risks in Low Earth Orbit, the Atmosphere and on Earth," the constellation of satellites proposed by major corporations could deposit more aluminum into the Earth's upper atmosphere. At the same time, untraced and unregulated debris and meteoroids could cause numerous collisions. These are some of the adverse effects on Astronomy that the researchers raised.
Furthermore, the same study said that the consumer electronic model provides for fast upgrade cycles and rapid expansions of capabilities and significant increase of discarded equipment. That is because these satellites are mass-produced with minimal backup systems.
Similar endeavors are being planned by OneWeb, Amazon, Telesat, and the Chinese state-owned GW, which recently allowed its Long March 5B rocket to fall out of control worldwide. However, despite this commercial interest, current government regulations per The Independent are "ill-equipped to handle large satellite systems."
While the likelihood of a satellite colliding with another satellite, whether responsive or non-responsive, is "negligible," and there is little to account for untracked debris, the report added.
Check out more news and information on SpaceX in Science Times.