SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wishes to create a satellite network called “Starlink.” The aim behind Starlink is to provide all human beings with high-speed internet so that anybody “will be able to watch high-def movies, play video games and do all the things they want to do without noticing speed.”
He aims to have nearly 12,000 of his satellites up and running by 2025, and 42,000 of them functioning at the end of the road. Two rockets from SpaceX launched on March 18 and April 22, each put 60 satellites into orbit.
As good as having access to high-speed internet sounds, more than 40,000 satellites orbiting the Earth vastly outweigh the benefits.
WHY MIGHT STARLINK PROVE TO BE A BAD IDEA?
Currently, the low Earth orbit (LEO) region is used by several scientific, remote-sensing, and telecom satellites. It is also used by the International Space Station. Elon Musk’s Starlink would add thousands of satellites to the many that already exist, increasing the risk of collisions.
After Starlink refused to change the path of its satellite, the European Space Agency was forced to move away one of its Earth observation satellites on September 2, 2019, to avoid a collision.
According to experts, this might even cause the LEO and near-space environment to become unusable.
20,000 fragments of space debris are currently under surveillance. If even a small percentage of Musk’s satellites broke down during their lifespan, they would add a huge amount of debris to the amount already floating around in space.
Moreover, six Starlink satellites have already failed since the first launch.
INCREASE IN ENERGY CONSUMPTION
The activities that Musk says he wants everyone to be able to do without worrying about internet speeds, “high-def movies, play video games,” consume energy almost equivalent to the electricity consumption of Europe. In 2020, world digital energy consumption is expected to be 3,834 TWh. This figure can be contextualized when compared to the same for European electricity in 2018 – 4,077 TWh.
Moreover, the global greenhouse gas emissions from these activities is 4% of the total. It is expected to increase to 8% by 2025.