There have been few constants we could rely on this last decade, but 2020 has kicked off just like any other year for Elon Musk. Shrouded in controversy.
Before you ask, no he’s not released another bang-average EDM track. This time Elon’s managed to wind up every national space agency on earth. Despite his largely vocal criticism on the misuse of technology, whether that’s AI or Neural Networks, Musk seems to have little in the way of self-awareness. His recent venture to privatise space travel, SpaceX, has been at the forefront of international criticism this last month.
Turns out, their recent work on oversaturating the earth’s orbit with corporate satellites can only be described as ‘dangerous’ or ‘gross negligence’. And that’s putting it lightly.
With 180 satellites under their name, SpaceX are no strangers to a disciplinary. In September of last year, one of SpaceX’s satellites encroached upon a European Space Agency satellite. After a stern response from Europe it appears they are yet to learn their lesson. Despite releasing further information used to track the satellites, criticism from astronomers on their design and abundance has largely been ignored.
Our very own asteroid belt
With so many objects in the earth’s orbit, the risk of space trash has grown exponentially. Should anything collide, at those speeds, shrapnel will be sent in every direction. Not ideal for satellites in their vicinity. With every new satellite launched, earth’s orbit becomes more congested. And with less room for manoeuvre, communication is key. So why are SpaceX keeping so quiet?
Speaking to The Verge, Moriba Jah, an associate professor at the University of Texas said “If you’re really interested in space safety and that sort of stuff, then you want to let the widest audience possible know where your objects are located. It’s in your own best interest for everybody to know.” Specialising in tracking orbital debris, Moriba is yet another expert in his field whose concerns for SpaceX are falling on deaf ears.
Shine bright like ... a satellite?
Surprisingly, one of the most common complaints for SpaceX satellites is their reflective design. Yes, you heard that right. These satellites are too bright. Because they orbit close to earth, well 550 kilometres is close in context, and reflect the suns light well after dark, these satellites are shining brighter than any other orbiting constructs.
Whilst this might not sound like a pressing issue, it turns out that super bright satellites are a major nuisance to astronomers who are trying to observe objects across the solar system. So no more star gazing, observations or research if this frequency of launches continues. Instead we’ll be left with new artificial lights in the sky, owned and controlled by none other than Elon Musk.
An end in sight?
The short answer is no. There’s no stopping this Elon-era, as momentum grows behind each of his companies. With growths in Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring Company, Musk has his fingers in as many pies as possible.