Elon Musk has some lofty goals for his high-speed satellite internet venture Starlink. He plans to launch 45,000 satellites into our skies. It’s for a good cause though. Musk plans to bring internet connection to all the populations that lack it. He also plans to improve internet connection speeds offering 1Gb/s download speed once his system is fully operational. For comparison, 100Mb/s is currently considered above average.
But it’s not all good news. Amongst other potential dangers, Musk’s satellites may exacerbate light pollution. Although these satellites don’t produce light, they’re situated lower in orbit – about 60 times lower than other internet satellites – they run the risk of filling the night sky with reflections.
Considering that they will be in very high numbers, this could impact conditions for all astronomers and even hamper our ability to detect hazardous asteroids. Starlink has therefore now been trialing new designs that result in less reflection, such as the “DarkSat” satellite with a non-reflective coating and the “VisorSat” satellite equipped with a special sunshade visor.
But that’s not all. If they are damaged, Musk’s satellites could contribute to the problem of space debris. Starlink has been working hard to address all these potential issues, noting that the satellites are all designed to deorbit naturally, or burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. If it succeeds to do so, then the satellites may well be worth the risks.