What Is A Satellite Mega-Constellation? Its Impact On The World

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Until the launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik, the moon and the stars were the only objects in the sky. As time passed, the number of artificial satellites in space increased. Now, many space giants are planning and launching thousands of satellites in space.

What is a Satellite Constellation?

Satellite Mega constellation is a network that has thousands of satellites working together in a system. These are used for global communication networks and cover a large area of the world. 

These satellites are mostly placed at lower earth orbit which is nearest to the earth (at altitudes of 160 km – 2,000 km).

This Satellite Mega Constellation needs heavy infrastructure on the ground like millions of stations all around the world to receive the signals from satellites and distribute them to the users.

This is how Satellite Mega-Constellation will look like

What is the need for a Satellite Constellation?

There is an increasing demand for data all around the world. So to provide high-speed internet to any point on the earth is very important.

As we all know, the internet we use is because of the undersea cables that connect with data centers around the world which offers uninterrupted connectivity. Most of the world uses this type of internet, but this is not the only type.

Also Read: How does the Internet work?

There are many parts of the world where these cables can’t reach. For these areas, we use satellite internet. But satellite internet tends to be more expensive and has a low number of users. One big issue with satellite internet is the high latency as the traditional satellites operate very far from the earth.

Rocket Launch

So to overcome all these problems, satellite constellations come into the frame!

Why a Satellite Constellation?

In recent years, the space industry has transformed dramatically. Instead of launching complex and expensive satellites, they are deploying smaller inexpensive satellites. This trend has not only reduced the costs of building the satellites but has also made satellite mega-constellations feasible.

Low Earth Orbit satellites are smaller and their orbits are much closer to Earth, so the rockets required to launch them are also smaller and cheaper. 

Low orbiting satellites provide lower latency than fiber optics over long distances. Light travels significantly faster in space and the air than inside a fiber optic cable.

As 5G internet has launched in different countries, there is a need for better connectivity which will be done by satellite mega-constellations more effectively. 

Also Read: 5th Generation Technology (5G)

Unlike single satellites, satellite mega-constellations are cheaper. This makes the process of installing such networks in outer space much easier and more affordable. 

Infographic

Key Players in Satellite Mega-Constellations 

As of January 2022, the total number of Starlink satellites in orbit grew to 2,000, and is planning to launch 30000 more satellites. 

Starlink is facing competition from Amazon, which announced plans to launch about 3,200 internet satellites of its own. 

A California startup Astra is planning its own mega constellation of about 13,000 satellites.

Environmental Impacts

There are serious impacts on the environment due to satellite mega constellations. The major disadvantage of satellite mega-constellations is that it will create lots of space junk which will bring ecological impacts in the long run. 

Also Read: What is Space Junk?

Every satellite leaves a long trail that can completely ruin observation of the stars, comets, and more. It will damage astronomical observations with this new kind of light pollution.

Long trail left by Satellites

The future with satellite mega-constellations looks technologically advanced but substantially harmful.

References:

https://www.analyticssteps.com/blogs/what-satellite-mega-constellation-advantages-and-disadvantages

https://www.technologyreview.com/technology/satellite-mega-constellations/

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