In order to expand high-speed satellite network services, SpaceX’s second-generation Starlink plan is preparing to launch an additional 30,000 satellites. Obviously, NASA does not like this addition. Recently, NASA submitted a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), indicating that Starlink satellites will directly affect the observation of near-Earth asteroids tracked by Hubble and ground-based telescopes, as well as interfere with science and manned missions, although NASA is not against SpaceX’s plan. , but still called on the FCC to review applications more carefully.
In 2015, SpaceX proposed the Starlink project, which consists of 12,000 low-orbit satellites to form a giant satellite constellation. satellite into space. According to Elon Musk’s Jan. 16 tweet, there were 1,469 Starlink satellites in working condition at the time, with another 272 in orbit.
Obviously, Musk’s work plan will not be limited to 12,000 low-orbit satellites. In fact, SpaceX has submitted an application for the second-generation Starlink satellite Gen2 program to the FCC, and it is expected to launch another 30,000 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit, making the entire constellation satellites. The total is a staggering 42,000, and the FCC is also reviewing it.
But NASA frowned and spoke.
Significantly increases the risk of collision with other satellites
NASA is currently closely monitoring 25,000 space objects with the U.S. Department of Defense, and about 6,100 objects are within 600 kilometers of perigee, including the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, thousands of satellites, and debris that has accumulated after decades of launches Etc., however, the number of Starlink satellites in the Gen2 scheme has directly doubled, and NASA warns that this scale will only make the risk of collision events more dangerous.
Although SpaceX claims that the satellites have an automatic collision avoidance system, NASA holds a conservative opinion, believing that the sky will be so crowded that close encounters are inevitable. By June 2021 alone, Starlink satellites and other objects (including other Starlink satellites) ) has about 1,630 close (within 1 km) passing experience, and the automatic collision avoidance system lacks statistical basis; in December last year, the Chinese government also criticized 2 Starlink satellites for almost matching the 555-kilometer orbit. Chinese space station collided.
Affects a large number of astronomical observations
The Hubble Space Telescope orbits the earth at 535 kilometers above the ground. Currently, 8% of the composite images are destroyed by satellites, but the Gen2 plan will add 10,000 satellites orbiting the Earth on the top of the Hubble Space Telescope, and the destroyed Hubble Space Telescope will be composited at that time. The image scale may be more than doubled.
The observation field of satellites farther from the earth is directly interfered by all Starlink satellites. For example, meteorological satellites often use radio, radar and other instruments to monitor the earth’s climate, but the sunlight reflected by the Starlink satellites will cause the measurement results to be inaccurate.
Ground-based telescopes with horizon-to-horizon sightings, which must take advantage of the short “astronimical twilight” period to observe comets and near-Earth asteroids, suffer even more. NASA estimates that if 420 million Starlink satellites fill the sky, at least one Starlink satellite trail will greet astronomers in every survey image taken in defense of a dangerous asteroid impact.
Competitors are blocking Gen2 solutions
NASA did not ask the FCC to reject SpaceX’s application, but only emphasized that SpaceX must solve these problems, and hoped that the FCC could carefully deploy satellites on the premise of “considering aerospace safety and long-term use of the space environment”; at the same time, NASA also appreciated SpaceX’s efforts to solve the problem so far. Capabilities and partnerships also suggest that the launch of a large number of additional satellites requires expanded coordination and communication between the two parties to ensure the respective assets of SpaceX and NASA.
In addition, this is not the first time NASA has proposed a satellite constellation. In 2020, NASA expressed “strict concern” about the 243 SpaceMobile satellites that AST & Science hoped to put into orbit, and those satellites were not even on the ground. , but it is the first time that NASA has publicly opposed the communication satellite plan of a private company. The reason is that the satellite is too large and lacks experience in deploying large satellites in space. NASA is very afraid of its own satellite being smashed.
But other satellite companies that are not used to SpaceX are not so polite. Viasat asked the FCC to reject SpaceX’s application or put it on hold, Dish asked the FCC to partially reject or deny the application, EchoStar and Hughes called on the FCC to reject or suspend the review of SpaceX’s application, Amazon’s request that has often been at odds with SpaceX Adding emission restrictions, OneWeb also requires the FCC to impose additional conditions.