The launch of thousands of satellites into low earth orbit by technological billionaire Elon Musk, SpaceX, threatens the “de facto monopolization” of space, warned the head of competitor Arianespace Stéphane Israel.
Elon Musk’s Starlink constellation project recently received approval from the US regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, to provide broadband from space and place thousands of satellites lower than previously proposed, which angered competitors, including Amazon.
SpaceX, which has asked the FCC for authorization that will apply to some 2,800 satellites, eventually plans to cover poorly connected and isolated areas of the globe with Internet connectivity.
But rivals say the lower altitude could increase the risk of space collisions and increased radio interference.
“We want the space to remain accessible for human activities… but we refuse a space from the Wild West. It is truly our responsibility to ensure that the low orbit (less than 1000 kilometers or 625 miles) above Earth is sustainable in the long term. Israel said at a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva on the Sustainable Space Development Goals.
Israel noted that of more than 9,000 satellites in orbit since 1957, “SpaceX has already deployed 1,677 satellites for Starlink, which means that today, of all satellites in operation, 35% are owned by one man. – Elon Musk.
“And if you include satellites over 50 kilograms, it’s over 50 percent. “
He added that the past few years had seen several collisions, at least two of which involved Starlink satellites, and warned that “very quickly we could find ourselves in a catastrophic scenario that would make this orbit impractical.”
Israel said there was also “a risk of de facto monopolization” for Starlink as one of the first companies to set up such a satellite network.
# photo1 He suggested it was “more of what our competitor is counting on” by getting the FCC nod.
The FCC ruled in April that deployment at an altitude below the initially proposed 540 to 570 kilometers “will improve the experience for users of the SpaceX service, including in the often underserved polar regions.”
It would also allow satellites to be removed from orbit more quickly, which would have “beneficial effects” in terms of reducing space debris, the authority found.
In total, SpaceX has requested FCC clearance for up to 42,000 satellites.
This has prompted Arianespace, a joint venture between Airbus and the French multinational Safran, to strengthen its own competitiveness for launches – a global market whose Fortune Business Insights value is estimated at nearly $ 13 billion in 2019, rising to 26 billion dollars in 2027.
The French Ambassador to the UN in Geneva and the conference organizer François Rivasseau stressed that space has a “vital” role in helping sustainable development.
But he also warned that the potential risks could suddenly shift from marginal concerns to global issues – pointing to the coronavirus pandemic as a precedent.
© 2021 AFP