The two richest people in the world, Elon Musk (Starlink) and Jeff Bezos (Kuiper via Amazon), have a new hobby: to send thousands of satellites into low-Earth orbit to connect all mankind to the Internet. In fact, according to a recent report by two UN agencies, about 3.7 billion people worldwide are still deprived of it.
1 The goal mentioned … and the reality
With Kuiper expected to officially launch in a few months, Sterlink celebrated its first anniversary in April. The promise is sympathetic: “Connections are needed in places that do not currently exist”, and “where they are very limited or expensive”, Elon Musk announced last summer. But, in reality, the mask service is only available in about 20 rich countries, which, despite having a stable white area, already have Internet coverage for most of their population.
However, and this is a bit of irrationality of the project, the cost of services to be sold much higher where it is really needed. It actually requires investing in a satellite antenna and its adapted router, for an actual price of 500 euros, now sold 634 euros – due to inflation, the company justifies – with which it needs to add 71 euros cost delivery and 99 euros monthly subscription. Elon Musk is targeting 10 million customers to cover his costs and reduce the monthly rate to 80 euros. At this price it is hard to imagine that Starlink could win over its customers in Africa or India, where only 25% of the population is connected to the Internet.
2 How does it work?
Satellite internet is nothing new. In France, Nordnet, Numerisat and SkyDSL provide a connection between 40 and 60 euros per month. They target millions of people who do not have ADSL or decent 4G network. Because, despite the very high-speed French plan, the accompanying public subsidy and their public service delegation, traditional operators prefer to invest in 5G antennas in the city center instead of covering the entire region with optical fiber. Separately, Starlink and tomorrow Kuiper’s offers promise better speeds – at least 100 MB / s – and above all, better latency than existing offers.
These performances are possible because their satellites are on average ten times less atmospheric than others. Starlink’s orbit is 540 kilometers from Earth; For the Kuipers it would be 600 kilometers. The network of satellites – constellations – is decisive because it will be very dense. Musk wants to send 42 thousand! These satellites, much smaller than normal models, the size of a large washing machine and weighing only 200 kg. About 2,000 of them are already in low orbit. Since Amazon’s satellites are much larger, the multinational plans to send “only” 3,236 Several of them should be placed in low orbit by the new Ariane 6 launcher
3 Stars and pollution
Satellite constellations are corrupted, in many sense of the word. There are already materials to make them: millions of electronic components. Then, a launch of the Aryan 5 or 6 represents 600 to 900 tons of CO in the fuel.2, I.e. about 5 million kilometers on a plane or over 40,000 days of gas heating. It should be noted that the more satellites are deployed, the more gas emissions change the climate. Once in orbit, the lifespan of a satellite is five to seven years. After that, it needs to be replaced. If these multinationals are to be believed, most of the wreckage of out-of-service vehicles will be detached into the atmosphere: this will benefit the lower orbit. But more than a centimeter of debris is already circulating. This includes the risk of a chain collision, which occurred with the destruction of 40 Starlink satellites in February. The multiplication of these debris represents a risk for more important services such as GPS or climate monitoring.
The International Union of Astronomists, which brings together 13,000 astronomers from around the world, also warns of the light pollution caused by these devices, which must be made of reflective material to support solar energy and thus disturb large astronomical telescopes located on the floor. . In addition, radio signals transmitted by these satellites can interfere with radio astronomical frequencies. “Recent advances in radio astronomy, such as the first imagery of a black hole or understanding of how planetary systems are formed, have been made possible through concerted efforts to keep the sky free from interference,” the union warned in a press release.
1Of In March 2022, Starlink delivered its first connecting bed in Ukraine. Some of them, funded by the Pentagon, are used by the military to operate drones. K Ukrinform / ZUMA / REA
4 What is Starlink doing in Ukraine?
Elon Musk saw the war in Ukraine as a great opportunity to advertise his Starlink services. In this conflict, telecommunications has been a major problem from the beginning and after attempting to hack, Russia facilitates the destruction of infrastructure. Thousands of connection kits with antennas have provided masks with many pictures and messages on social networks. Except for a good third of the equipment paid by the Pentagon, which also paid the বিল 800,000 delivery bill …
Moreover, although the stated purpose of the operation was primarily to connect with the population so that they could be informed, the Ukrainian army very quickly made kits exclusive, especially to special units of drones. These devices, remotely controlled by this connection, are used both as a recovery and as a weapon when loading explosives.
In April 2022, the Council of State in France suspended Sterlink’s operating license. He wants a “public consultation” before giving it away Sebastian Ortola / REA
5 A step on Mars
With all this pollution, these billionaires don’t care. These constellations are part of a massive mass crowd to conquer space and its limitless resources. According to Musk, Starlink will eventually have to bring in $ 30 billion a year. “We see this as a way for SpaceX to generate revenue that can be used to develop launch vehicles and spacecraft. We believe this is an essential step towards establishing an autonomous city on Mars and a foundation on the moon, “the billionaire explained during a press conference in 2019.
Bezos is relying on Kuiper subscriptions and revenues from space tourism to develop his O’Neill project, a “reference to the O’Neill cylinder” that Gerard K. O’Neill describes space in his book “The Cities From”. He wants to create a “floating” space colony in space, useful when the earth is no longer habitable. Billionaire explained at a conference in the summer of 2021, ” It could be an urban space. “” I wish we could imagine an ideal environment without boundaries. No rain, no earthquakes. We will not need another planet. A