Starlink is an ambitious project, albeit all Elon Musk companies started out as ambitious projects. Be it SpaceX, Starlink, or The Boring Company. Musk took on the surmounting challenge of supplying the internet to remote parts of the world. The idea was to use satellite internet and use low earth orbit satellites to broadcast the signal to ground receivers. But scientists have raised concerns that launching so many satellites into low-Earth orbit could cause massive interference in space research.
Musk shunned these concerns at first, but later promised significant changes to satellites to reduce light pollution. However, Starlink will have to account for this burgeoning issue and will have to take steps to reduce it, in order to launch the full constellation.
Why does Starlink cause light pollution?
Astronomers need to have clear visibility of space to study emerging phenomena. But if companies start cluttering low-Earth orbit with satellites in large numbers, the view is obscured. This angers a lot of scientists and also increases the risk of erroneous readings.
Techdirt posted that Starlink would have to abide by the new Biden FCC rules, which ask it to enter into a coordination agreement with the US National Science Foundation (NSF). This agreement will ensure that Starlink tries and mitigates the adverse effects its satellite network is causing on ground-based astronomy observations.
But the FCC rules don’t force the above-mentioned collaboration. While it is very good to put on a paper or give a speech, Starlink, or any other company for that matter, doesn’t need to mitigate the effects on astronomy. Musk could very well pacify the community into thinking that the company will take necessary measures because the contract is optional.
The regulators are also in a bind because they cannot halt new technology and innovation. However, light pollution in space will only increase with time. Apart from Starlink, Amazon is also working on Project Kuiper, which also plans to do the same thing. So, there will never be fewer satellites in space, and the idea further infuriates astronomers.