SpaceX completed the 41st launch of the calendar year this weekend. The American company founded by Elon Musk in 2002 launched a new swarm of satellites for its Starlink constellation for the occasion.
On Saturday, 35 satellites took off from Cape Canaveral, of which only one was not part of the Starlink program. BlueWalker 3 is the creation of AST SpaceMobile, a company specialized, like SpaceX, in communications and Internet broadcasting from space.
A satellite too large to go unnoticed
With this large-scale prototype (1500 kilograms per 64 square meters), the company wants to demonstrate that Starlink-like constellations are not the only options for connecting the entire world to the Internet.
Scott Wisniewski, head of operations and strategy at AST SpaceMobile, explains that this satellite must allow “to communicate with telephones, like a large antenna. The idea with this prototype is to “change nothing in the user experience.”
Placed in orbit, this satellite is expected to be capable of transmitting 3G and 4G networks around the world. An idea that many operators like, the company has partnership contracts with 25 of them, including Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile.
A single satellite does not provide full coverage of the planet, but a few weeks before Blue Walker 3 took off, AST SpaceMobile received the green light from the FCC (the Communications Regulatory Administration) to test its service in Texas and Hawaii. .
A pebble (of light) in the shoe
But the project has detractors. The size of half a volleyball court, the satellite does not go unnoticed, not even from Earth. Several astrophysicists explain that it could cause discomfort in observing.
On his twitter account, Eric Lagadec, an astrophysicist at the Côte d’Azur Observatory, explains that such a satellite “can, at times, be brighter than all the stars and planets in the sky”.
Scientists around the world fear that these satellites will interfere with their observations, as well as spoil the view of the general public. A race to orbit that many denounce, but which does not seem to want to stop.
Continue the orbit contest to see who will have the most Internet customers. We will launch a satellite that, at times, may be brighter than all the stars and planets in the sky. Each year a bigger project, will it end up with advertising in the sky? https://t.co/WL12dHlwWG
– Eric Lagadec (@EricLagadec) September 10, 2022
Kessler syndrome at the end of the tunnel?
A recent report from the Apollo Academic Surveys suggests that megaconstellations like Starlink could one day lead to Kessler syndrome. In short, it is likely that these satellites are so numerous in orbit that we would find ourselves “blocked” on Earth by a barrier of satellites and debris.
If this theory is still far from being a reality, the scientific world is alarmed by the possible chain reactions of the presence of so many objects in our sky. For his part, the industrialists do not seem to take the subject seriously, Elon Musk congratulates his teams on Twitter for what has been one of the “most complicated missions” in the history of his company.