Elon Musk, Starlink and the Future of Planet Earth

SpaceX has just requested permission from the FCC to operate 1M ‘earth stations’.

Image credit: www.universetoday.com

The earth stations will transmit in the range of 14.0-14.5 GHz (part of the ‘Ku band’) and receive in the range of 10.7-12.7 GHz (part of the ‘X band’). For comparison, current LTE networks operate at 600MHz to 2.5GHz.

In a filing to the FCC, SpaceX Services (a sister company to SpaceX) requests “a blanket license authorizing operation of up to 1,000,000 earth stations that end-user customers will utilize to communicate with SpaceX’s NGSO (non-geostationary orbit) constellation.

In November 2018 the FCC authorized SpaceX to construct, deploy and operate a very-low-Earth orbit constellation of more than 7,000 satellites using V-band frequencies. The Commission also granted Elon Musk’s request to add the 37.5GHz – 42.0GHz and 47.2GHz – 50.2GHz frequency bands to its previously authorized non-geostationary satellite orbit. The company will start with 4,425 satellites in low-Earth orbit and another 7,518 flying at “very-low” Earth orbit between 208 and 215 miles (335 to 346 kilometers). Low-Earth orbit is around 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers).

According to the Online Index of Objects Launched into Outer Space, which is maintained by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), there are currently 4,857 satellites in orbit of Earth (as of November 9th, 2018). (1-6)

 

An overall increase in  wireless EMF exposure:

Starlink will send messages via a series of ground stations that will transmit information through radio waves to the satellites above. These satellites would then relay the messages using lasers so it reaches the one above the recipient’s destination, where the data would then be beamed down to the correct station using radio waves again.

Each terminal would make use of advanced beamforming and steerable antenna technology. A recent job posting for SpaceX engineering talent suggests the ground station will be a consumer-facing device. So, rather than having a cable or DSL modem in your house, you might have one of SpaceX’s Starlink terminals and an antenna that communicates with the satellite network. These terminals are separate from SpaceX’s planned gateway facilities, which could number in the hundreds. These nodes would connect to the internet backbone, providing online access to Starlink users.

Worthwhile repeating: The Earth stations will transmit at 14.0-14.5GHz and receive signals at 10.7-12.7GHz. For comparison, current LTE networks operate at 600MHz to 2.5GHz. (4)

Experiment in space:

Prof. Mark Handley of University College London:

“Yes, I think the concept is overall feasible. It’s difficult though, and SpaceX [is] pushing the limits of technology in several areas simultaneously. Their use of phased array wireless links to steer narrow beams to and from the satellites will be pushing the limits of what has been done. This is mostly known technology, but doing it to the degree they’re doing it will be challenging. The use of free-space laser links between satellites is relatively unknown technology. [The European Space Agency] previously demonstrated that it was possible, but SpaceX will need to track more targets simultaneously and achieve higher data rates. I have confidence it can be done, but it may take some time to really get right.” (5-6)

Satellite cost, maintenance and replacement:

The cost of launching a single satellite will be in the tens of millions of dollars range, and maintenance costs per satellite are also likely to be huge. Each Starlink satellite will probably only last a few years in orbit, so SpaceX will need to launch new satellites regularly.

Hugh Lewis, a professor at the University of Southampton and the representative of the UK Space Agency on the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee stated in an interview with “New Scientist” :  “To maintain just 4425, you’re going to be launching that number every five years“. (5 -6)

Add to the future number of Starlink satellites:

Telecom and aerospace giants Samsung and Boeing are also sending internet satellites to orbit, while Google and Facebook are pursuing their own plans for space-based internet. The Canadian telecom company Telesat is developing a global constellation of internet satellites, known as Telesat LEO. China, Russia and India also have satellite programs.

Internet in the Sky:

The aim is for global coverage, with access possible from remote villages, ships at sea, and other locations where traditional infrastructure does not exist.

There will be more satellites and better coverage at latitudes between 47° and 52° north and south, which coincides with the locations of some of the world’s largest trading centers. The development of the ‘Internet in the Sky” is to meet the growing demand for high-speed internet access, which is expected to double by 2020. In that same year, the number of devices connected to IP networks is projected to outnumber the global population factor of about 3 to 1 – that’s over 20 billion devices! (In other words, 5G , IOT and The Fourth Industrial Revolution).

SpaceX is asking the FCC to approve its application quickly in light of its “ambitious timetable for launching satellites and deploying broadband services.” That’s something of an understatement. The company is reportedly targeting the middle of this year for its first Starlink launches, and the service could be online in 2020. (4-6)

In addition SpaceX and Starlink are being promoted as our gateway to Mars.

Space Debris:

Computer generated images of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked can be seen in the image below. Approximately 95% of the objects in this illustration are orbital debris, i.e., not functional satellites. The dots represent the current location of each item.

https://www.orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/photo-gallery.html

Image credit: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office

From the 23,000 pieces of debris in Earth orbit that are larger than 5-10 centimeters that we can track and catalog, to the hundreds of millions that we cannot, there is little question that both big and small objects whizzing around at lethal speeds endanger the prospects for civilian, commercial and military missions in outer space.

The more cluttered space becomes, the greater risk there is for a collision.

NASA and other agencies are doing their best to keep track of where this orbital debris is, down to the smallest pieces they can track. But it’s an inexact science, and smaller objects, or those tumbling haphazardly, can only be tracked approximately. (7-8)

Cleaning up our act:

Space agencies and private companies are under more and more pressure to clean up after themselves. This means making sure to de-orbit their satellites and accompanying space trash, either by driving them low to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere or flying away to higher, less-crowded orbits. But there aren’t any space police to make people follow the rules, meaning enforcement of these policies is no guarantee.

Debris can also fall back down on Earth – these rare events may become a bigger hazard in the years ahead as the size of the debris cloud grows, and as the projected fleet of commercial small satellites becomes a reality. (7-8)

Security Threat:

Space debris cleanup might also become a national security threat.

There are now a number of open assessments about space junk removal technologies that can double up as military programs, such as lasers or hunters. If you are a great power like the United States that is heavily dependent on space assets in both the economic and military realms, then you are vulnerable to both orbital debris and the technologies proposed for its cleanup. Accidental or deliberate events involving orbital debris are poised to ravage peaceful prospects in outer space. (7-8)

Involvement of the military:

President Trump has just (Feb 2018) directed the Pentagon to develop plans to create a new space force within the US Military. “We have to be prepared,” he said in the Oval Office, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and other top officials.

Some questioned whether having a Space Force would increase the odds of armed conflict in space.

There are much better ways to protect satellites,” said Laura Grego, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Space security cannot be achieved unilaterally or solely through military means. It will require coordination and cooperation with other spacefaring nations. That means diplomacy.”

Together with the above announcement from Trump came this news: The U.S. Air Force has divided $739 million in launch contracts between United Launch Alliance and SpaceX for six national security missions slated for 2021-2022. The contracts, awarded under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, were announced Tuesday evening by Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. (9-10)

The ionosphere:

Electromagnetic waves created by lightning flashes and trapped between the ground and the ionosphere – here shown in blue, green, and red – circle around Earth, creating the Schumann resonance.

(Image Credit: NASA/Simoes)

The Schumann resonances (SR) are a set of spectrum peaks in the extremely low frequency (ELF) portion of the Earth’s electromagnetic field spectrum.

Schumann resonances are global electromagnetic resonances, generated and excited by lightning discharges in the cavity formed by the Earth’s surface and the ionosphere.

Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX tore a hole in the ionosphere:
Gigantic Circular Shock Acoustic Waves in the Ionosphere Triggered by the Launch of FORMOSAT-5 Satellite
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322787309_Gigantic_Circular_Shock_Acoustic_Waves_in_the_Ionosphere_Triggered_by_the_Launch_of_FORMOSAT-5_Satellite

The hole caused by the SpaceX launch was only temporary, but as commercial rockets take more and more satellites into orbit, the disruptions in the ionosphere will happen more often. Another consequence of this growth and an increased number of rockets tearing through the atmosphere could be errors in global position system (GPS) navigation.

The lead author of the above study, Charles C. H. Lin from the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, describes a rocket launch like a small volcano erupting, unloading energy into the middle and upper atmosphere in a way that’s comparable to what we see from a magnetic storm:

Humans are entering an era that rocket launches are becoming usual and frequent due to a reduced cost by reusable rockets,” Lin said. “Meanwhile, humans are developing more powerful rockets to send cargoes to other planets. These two factors will gradually affect the middle and upper atmosphere more, and that is worthwhile to pay some attention to.”

Should we not be more careful with any activity that can affect the Ionosphere and the Schumann Resonances?

Dr Neil Cherry 2002: Schumann Resonances, a plausible biophysical mechanism for the human health effects of Solar/Geomagnetic Activity:

The theoretical, experimental and observational data involving animals and people gives very strong support for the Schumann Resonance Hypothesis and its Melatonin Mechanism. There is overwhelming evidence that S-GMA (Solar and Geomagnetic Activity)  is a natural hazard causing reproductive, neurological cardiac and carcinogenic illness and death with cyclic and extreme swings in Solar/Geomagnetic Activity.

https://researcharchive.lincoln.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10182/3935/90_n1_EMR_Schumann_Resonance_paper_1.pdf?sequence=1

Does Schumann Resonance affect our blood pressure?

Cases for linking changes in the ambient magnetic field to observable changes in higher life form can be found in the scientific literature. For instance, geomagnetic storms have been found to be accompanied by degradation and destruction of mitochondria and loss of the circadian rhythmicity in the heart rate of rabbits. Because the magnetoreception of neural structures should be evolutionarily adjusted to these magnetic fields, humans may also have a special sensitivity to geomagnetic fields . In fact, scientific literature suggests that ambient electromagnetic fluctuations, such as geomagnetic activity, may affect our physiology, psychology, and behavior.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656447/#R6

The ozone layer:

It is ironic that satellites are used to study the impact of climate change.

From the above document: http://aerospace.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/RocketEmissions.pdf

Rocket exhaust has two main effects on the atmosphere. First, chemical reactions deplete the ozone layer. More recently, a second concern has come to light. Particles injected into the stratosphere absorb and reflect solar energy, changing the flow of radiation in the atmosphere, heating the stratosphere and cooling the surface, respectively. This radiative forcing has the effect of changing the Earth’s albedo and so the amount of solar energy injected into the atmosphere. These thermal changes also deplete the ozone layer.

Rocket emissions, though they deplete ozone and cause climate forcing, so far have not been regulated. Scientists are saying: get the data now before before the situation gets worse. Ross and his colleague Jim Vedda argue that as launches increase, policymakers will eventually want to know what kind of damage these vehicles are causing to the environment and if regulations are necessary. When that time comes, it will be better to have as much data as possible to make the best decisions.

There is little doubt that these two fundamental realities, rocket emissions impacts and international stewardship, could come into conflict, given a sufficiently vigorous launch industry. It cannot be predicted when this conflict will emerge, but the present day launch industry outlook suggests that it is on the horizon. At the same time, entanglement with future geoengineering regulation could affect space launch as well.

All of these potential future conflicts indicate that the launch community, in the U.S. and globally, should tackle the question of launch emissions while it is still manageable, and be prepared to respond to regulatory attention and inquiry. The launch industry has benefited thus far from a policy vacuum. Experience with space debris mitigation strongly emphasizes this course of action: Act when concerns are small to prepare for a big future. In this case, that means initiating an aggressive scientific research program and being proactive in regulatory engagement.

The most accurate estimate that can be made is that at present launch rates and propellant use, global ozone depletion from rocket engine particle emissions does not exceed 0.1% … a small but
growing injury to the ozone layer struggling to recover from long banned chlorofluorocarbons.

Image credit: http://aerospace.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/RocketEmissions.pdf

Will we destroy Planet Earth in our quest to get to Mars? (or to be able to download a video at super speed?)
References
  1. https://www.techspot.com/news/78679-spacex-requests-fcc-permission-operate-1m-earth-stations.html?fbclid=IwAR1drbIMFeydWfTpCrpKsXcdGE504t49IcCkIfEvCx4CTa0xdQ0jP_O1A-Q
  2. https://fcc.report/IBFS/SES-LIC-INTR2019-00217/1616678
  3. https://www.techspot.com/news/77457-spacex-gets-green-light-move-forward-starlink-satellite.html
  4. https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/285692-spacex-seeks-fcc-approval-for-1-million-earth-based-satellite-uplinks
  5. https://www.universetoday.com/140539/spacex-gives-more-details-on-how-their-starlink-internet-service-will-work-less-satellites-lower-orbit-shorter-transmission-times-shorter-lifespans/
  6. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24032033-300-the-first-detailed-look-at-how-elon-musks-space-internet-could-
  7. http://theconversation.com/why-space-debris-cleanup-might-be-a-national-security-threat-105816
  8. http://www.astronomy.com/news/2018/12/despite-concerns-space-junk-continues-to-clutter-earth-orbit
  9. https://www.firstpost.com/tech/science/trump-signs-an-approved-order-to-create-space-force-within-the-us-air-force-6116871.html?fbclid=IwAR0H6JTTWCXcXEB4n-K8wLRbjxl5AWjLgeWJ9taGKOPH-BHJ4bIFFS_TPqA
  10. https://spacenews.com/air-force-awards-739-million-in-launch-contracts-to-ula-and-spacex/?fbclid=IwAR3jIzBeI8xoQRGifjLTsBIrQqwJfbAo4Buvi7yMMur0DXLWeTcfII_7BVc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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