How many satellites are too many? – Politico

With the help of Derek Robertson

Broadband internet satellites are set to sweep the sky Over the next decade on an unprecedented scale. Just don’t ask today’s policymakers how exactly we will manage the fallout.

The story has long been familiar to tech watchers. Taking a leap forward can sometimes come with unintended consequences, often very obvious and sometimes accompanied by new risks. Companies have connected homes to electricity, telephone lines, television signals, and the Internet – miracles of modern communication – but not without communities inheriting a cityscape of hanging wires and attendant fire hazards.

This communication journey has now reached miles above Earth, with side effects as big as broadband vision itself.

Tech billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are planning big investments in ambitious broadband satellite networks that are set to orbit in low Earth orbit around the world to send internet signals to us on Earth. This can be especially valuable in rural, hard-to-reach areas of the planet (or in war-torn Ukraine, such as DFD was recently selected). But many of the rules for how these systems operate have yet to be written, posing practical and geopolitical challenges for ambitious market players such as SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb (A troubled competitor now owned by the British government.)

That includes how these satellites can navigate a cracked globe without creating a cascade of orbital debris — all while not spoiling the night sky for stargazers. The addition of thousands of orbiting satellites makes the sky full of optical obstructions and brighter thanks to reflected streaks of light, which can lead to a scramble in astronomy and even bird migration patterns.

Astronomers have been warning about this for the past three years – at the United Nations, satellite companies, and at international conferences.

Astronomer James Lowenthal told me, “If we mess up astronomy with huge satellite instruments, we’re going to be paying big time — there will be a huge loss to science.” Putting more satellites into low Earth orbit risks forming a chain of debris if they collide with each other, but even in the absence of such a chain reaction, the far greater number of satellites planned for the next decade still threatens astronomy.

Research operations managed by NASA’s 32-year-old Hubble Space Telescope may be at stake, as Lowenthal said, “our ability to look up as well as look down” — satellites that study climate change, droughts, floods, and agricultural food production. “They are all in danger of potential debris falls,” he warned.

US regulators are beginning to update policies to reduce space waste, but these are small steps, and geopolitics stands in the way of broader efforts to protect the night sky. Any aspiring satellite player has to negotiate market access with a range of governments, many of which are not really playing well together.

Russia and China are largely off the table for any Western Earth orbit [low-earth orbit satellite] The system, which strains the operation of capital-intensive networks that by design “covers the entire planet,” Armand Moussi, president of Summit Ridge Group Consulting, told me.

SpaceX has taken some measures of its own to address these concerns. He. She Reduce the brightness of some Starlink satellites By applying anti-reflective coatings and masks as well as changing how they rotate, the DarkSat and VisorSat models haven’t eliminated astronomers’ fears. The changes come years after US regulators initially signed off on the launches – a government review that did not take environmental factors such as light pollution into account, such as Article in an academic journal 2020 lamented.

Mossi suggested that nations might want to develop an agreement similar to the Antarctic Treaty—formed in the mid-20th century that sets the rules for disarmament and the pursuit of scientific research in that largely remote region—to combat the growing dangers of tropical debris. (1967 Outer Space Treaty It has provisions making states responsible for damage caused by “space objects” and directing states to “avoid harmful pollution of space” but it lacks enforcement mechanisms.)

“You’re entering a phase where people are launching thousands of satellites, and yet ‘we haven’t really seen the political will’ to address mitigation,” Mossi said.

Lowenthal is pushing to introduce language into legislation focused on the FCC that would require satellite providers to consult with NASA and the National Science Foundation and “prove that they have reached agreement on their plan to minimize negative impacts on astronomy.”

Lowenthal cautioned from a pessimistic view that little would happen until the debris became so bad that it could become physically dangerous, whether from objects colliding with an astronaut in space or falling to Earth. Quote Visible fireball in the sky Over the Pacific Northwest last year from a SpaceX rocket burning up in the atmosphere.

“It will only be a matter of time until one of those falls on someone’s head,” Lowenthal said. “Maybe that’s what it would take to wake people up and activate the regulation mechanism – I don’t know.”

Politico’s Emily Birnbaum took a closer look this week at Representative Susan Delbiny (D-Wash), Preferred legislator in the tech industry and co-founder of The Reality Group, which focuses on augmented reality and virtual reality.

The report comes as a file Anti-monopoly law Targeting big tech companies making their way through Congress, and DelBene likely to be the spoiler: Emily stated that the actress, “who has several Amazon employees in her district, was one of only two New Democrats to raise concerns about Bills’ narrow focus on A few select companies.

Read Emily’s The full report is here.

Another skirmish in the escalating war between the Securities and Exchange Commission and the cryptocurrency:

in a day money morning POLITICO’s Sam Sutton reports on the clash between the SEC and Grayscale Investments, one of many crypto firms struggling to stay afloat amid the current bear market.

The struggle stems from Grayscale’s application to convert nearly $13 billion in Bitcoin credit, the world’s largest, into an ETF, or exchange-traded fund. This would relieve her of the various trading restrictions her shares are currently subject to Over-the-counter trading productsas well as helping bring stock prices back in line with the value of Grayscale’s Bitcoin holdings, the company says.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disagreed, citing the unpredictability and susceptibility to fraud of crypto assets — as it has done in many other applications of Bitcoin ETFs. For now and for the foreseeable future, crypto platforms with increased leverage are likely to find relief from industry figures Like Sam Bankman-Fried from any federal agency. – Derek Robertson

Stay in touch with the whole team: Ben Shrekinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Konstantin Kakays ([email protected]); and Heidi Vogt ([email protected]). Follow us on Twitter Tweet embed.

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