Satellite mega-constellations create risks in Low Earth Orbit, the atmosphere and on Earth

83Citations
Citations of this article
140Readers
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.

This article is free to access.

Abstract

The rapid development of mega-constellations risks multiple tragedies of the commons, including tragedies to ground-based astronomy, Earth orbit, and Earth’s upper atmosphere. Moreover, the connections between the Earth and space environments are inadequately taken into account by the adoption of a consumer electronic model applied to space assets. For example, we point out that satellite re-entries from the Starlink mega-constellation alone could deposit more aluminum into Earth’s upper atmosphere than what is done through meteoroids; they could thus become the dominant source of high-altitude alumina. Using simple models, we also show that untracked debris will lead to potentially dangerous on-orbit collisions on a regular basis due to the large number of satellites within mega-constellation orbital shells. The total cross-section of satellites in these constellations also greatly increases the risk of impacts due to meteoroids. De facto orbit occupation by single actors, inadequate regulatory frameworks, and the possibility of free-riding exacerbate these risks. International cooperation is urgently needed, along with a regulatory system that takes into account the effects of tens of thousands of satellites.

Cite

CITATION STYLE

APA

Boley, A. C., & Byers, M. (2021). Satellite mega-constellations create risks in Low Earth Orbit, the atmosphere and on Earth. Scientific Reports, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-89909-7

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free