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The Debate over SpaceX's Starlink Satellites
Jun 5, 2019 at 12:32 PM
Photo by Pixabay.com

The Quick Facts

  • Two weeks ago, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX successfully launched a batch of 60 internet communications satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
  • The cluster of satellites— part of a system called Starlink— are now orbiting the Earth, and Musk has confirmed that they are online.
  • The ultimate goal of the Starlink satellite system will be to provide high-speed internet to parts of the world that currently are largely cut off from the modern digital world.
  • SpaceX hopes to launch hundreds more similar satellites by next year, and ultimately add thousands.
  • The satellite launch has caused some controversy, as some scientists worry the Starlink system will eventually interfere with observation of the night sky, or cause dangerous space debris.

Food For Thought

What are the positive and negative effects of the Starlink satellite system? Do the potential benefits outweigh the risks?

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The Cape Argus

Elon Musk's plan for internet in the sky

Bilal Kathrada
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Our Commentary

This opinion piece from The Cape Argus by Bilal Kathrada makes these kinds of points:

  • SpaceX’s Starlink satellite system a “mind-blowingly amazing” concept. Once the project is completed, it “will completely transform global communications by making internet access available to the masses, especially in underserved areas and countries where the infrastructure is poor.”
  • The positive impact of the cheap and reliable internet access that this project will provide cannot be overstated. Reliable access could help small and large businesses thrive in developing nations; quality of education could improve worldwide.
  • Right now, the internet remains out of reach for many due to slow speed, cost, or unreliability. Since the Starlink concept does not require ground-based towers or telephone lines, it could be the ideal solution for people all over the world, especially in remote areas, who struggle with poor internet and high prices.

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Space.com

How SpaceX's Starlink Internet Satellites Could Help Humanity

Our Commentary

In this commentary from Space.com, Mike Wall includes these types of opinions:

  • There are many exciting, positive potential applications of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite system. The first is that there is a “fundamental goodness inherent in improving internet access” around the world.
  • Starlink will also boost SpaceX’s revenue significantly, which Elon Musk says will be used to Starship—another impressive project. Starship is the “reusable, 100-passenger spaceship that SpaceX is developing to ferry people to the Red Planet and other distant destinations,” meaning Starlink could eventually help humanity colonize Mars.
  • Starlink could potentially grow to “truly epic proportions,” although SpaceX will eventually face some competition from companies like Amazon who are already planning their own internet-satellite constellation. If development continues to go well, SpaceX could start completing lunar missions and even a Mars mission by the mid-2020s, marking a very exciting moment in space exploration.

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The Washington Post

Elon Musk’s satellites threaten to disrupt the night sky for all of us

Shannon Stirone
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Our Commentary

This opinion article by Shannon Stirone from The Washington Post expresses these types of views:

  • The launch of the first batch of Starlink “sent astronomers into a full-blown panic,” because the brightness of these new satellites threatens not just ameteur stargazers, but scientists’ ability to study space. The night sky is essentially a limited natural resource that is already endangered from light pollution, and these satellites will make it much worse.
  • The 60 satellites just launched will not prove terribly disruptive, but it’s Starlink’s end goal that is the problem: SpaceX wants to eventually launch 12,000. It is not even certain that this project will ultimately work, so we could be letting Silicon Valley destroy the night sky for no reason.
  • In “true Silicon Valley fashion,” Elon Musk and the SpaceX team didn’t even consult with scientists or astronomers about how their satellite plan might affect them. They provided no public information about where the satellites would orbit: this does not bode well for the future of this project and the potential problems it could cause.

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MoneyControl

Elon Musk's satellites could trap humans on Earth: Experts

Editorial Board
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Our Commentary

This editorial from MoneyControl offers these sorts of perspectives:

  • SpaceX is certainly “taking big steps to revolutionize the internet” with its Starlink project, but it is not without its fair share of concerns. One of the potential side effects that is most troubling to scientists is the chance that the large number of satellites will ruin all chances of future space travel.
  • This ambitious undertaking could drastically increase the amount of space debris, which will eventually make it harder and harder for rockets to escape Earth’s orbit. Chances of this will be especially high if SpaceX goes bankrupt after launching its satellites, leaving them permanently stationed.
  • Some critics of the Starlink project estimate that it could cause 70,000 collisions in space every year. “Not only would this pose a threat to space travel, but it could also gravely affect technologies like television, GPS, etc.”

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