Musk denied that Starlink satellites are squeezing space: low earth orbit can hold tens of billions of satellites

Sina Technology News, December 30, morning news, Beijing time, according to reports, the US commercial space exploration company SpaceX has built a huge Starlink satellite network in space to provide broadband services to the ground, which caused the company to “squeeze too much space.” Criticism. A few days ago, SpaceX head Musk refuted this view, saying that there is enough space in the orbit around the earth to accommodate “tens of billions” of satellites.


Musk denied that Starlink satellites are squeezing space: low earth orbit can hold tens of billions of satellites

Musk said: “Space is extremely large, the satellite itself is very small. The current situation is not that we are blocking other space devices, we are not blocking other people from doing anything, and we are not prepared to do so.”

Musk’s statement is actually a response to the recent criticism of Josef Aschbacher, the head of the European Space Agency. Ashbach said that Musk himself is setting the rules for a new commercial space economy.

Ashbach said in an interview earlier this month that Musk hastily deployed thousands of communication satellites into space, which will affect the radio frequency resources and orbital space that other space agencies can use.

SpaceX is a company under Musk’s private name. So far, the company has deployed about two thousand communications satellites in low earth orbit, mainly for satellite broadband services called Starlink. SpaceX plans to continue to deploy tens of thousands of communication satellites in the future.

Musk denied that he was “squeezing out” other satellite competitors. He used analogy to say that the satellites that can be accommodated in the low earth orbit are equivalent to the 2 billion cars and trucks that exist on the earth. The low orbit around the earth forms a “shell” whose area is larger than the surface area of ​​the earth. A new shell is formed at a height of 10 meters, which can go deep into space.

Musk said that this means that tens of billions of satellites can be accommodated in low earth orbit. The current thousands of satellites are nothing at all, as if there are thousands of cars on the earth, there is nothing to worry about.

Musk’s comparison of the density of low-orbit satellites with cars on Earth has encountered challenges from space experts.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the United States, said that spacecraft in space fly at a speed of 27,000 kilometers (17,000 miles) per hour. When the spacecraft collide, they need a larger separation space than the earth’s cars to implement temporary orbit adjustments.

McDormand calculated that at the above-mentioned flight speed, if the spacecraft maintains a three-second interval between them, each space earth orbital shell can hold only about 1,000 satellites.

McDormand said that there are a large number of satellites in space, and it is difficult to calculate the orbits of all these satellites or spacecraft. In addition, space weather conditions will also affect the orbit of the spacecraft. Therefore, potential collisions can only be discovered when the distance is relatively close.

The astrophysicist said that for many space-using organizations, avoiding collisions in space can only be done hours in advance, not days. Therefore, in other words, the current space is very crowded.

Laura Forczyk, an expert at the space consulting company “Astralytical”, said that Musk’s statement of comparing the number of space satellites to cars on Earth is frivolous. However, Musk believes that space currently needs a kind of “traffic management”, which is correct.

Fozek said that many companies are preparing to deploy thousands of satellites in space and build satellite communication networks, which means that different countries need to conduct more communication and coordination to jointly decide how to allocate orbital space and how to manage space traffic.

In addition, Fozek also stated that the European Space Agency’s Ashbach’s criticism of the Musk Starlink satellite network is based on emotions, not facts.

Fozek pointed out that if some airlines start to add more flights on a certain fixed route, will there be similar dissatisfaction? You must know that space does not belong to any family, and everyone can use space freely.

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