The communications company Viasat is petitioning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites, claiming the constellation poses environmental hazards.
The document cites a number of grievances including SpaceX’s satellites failure rate to devices colliding in orbit and re-entry pollution risks.
However, SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk caught wind of the petition and did what most billionaires do – he took to Twitter.
Musk shared a tweet on his page saying: ‘Starlink ‘poses a hazard’ to Viasat’s profits, more like it.’
John Janka, Viasat’s chief officer for global government affairs and regulatory, told DailyMail.com: ‘There has been strong concerns raised among a wide number of players in the industry this summer about the satellite’s orbital debris, space safety and interference issues.’
‘It is not just SpaceX, these concerns are about mega constellations in general – anyone proposing to send thousands and tens of thousands of satellites into orbit.’
Scroll down for video
The communications company Viasat is petitioning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate SpaceX’s Starlink, claiming the satellite constellation poses environmental hazards
The petition was originally filed in July, but Viasat submitted a continuation on December 22 based on new information that surfaced over the past few months.
This includes an FCC proceeding that is refreshing rules about orbiting debris to align with the new ‘space age,’ which includes the fact satellites are built with high-tech features that did not exist when the rules were created.
The proceeding began in 2018, when the FCC ‘expressed concerns that ‘operators have an incentive to maximize the use of orbital resources for their own gain, which may result in an unsustainable level of activity for long term use of the same orbits.’
The decision on the proceeding is set to be determined in the near future.
‘The [original] rules were written in a different time when you didn’t have a huge number of satellites in orbit and satellites were built differently than how they are today,’ Janka explained.
However, SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk caught wind of the petition and did what most billionaires do – he took to Twitter. Musk shared a tweet on his page saying: ‘Starlink ‘poses a hazard’ to Viasat’s profits, more like it’
‘Technology is outpacing the law and this is a good time for us to bring our rules up to date.’
Janka told DailyMail.com that SpaceX has a pending proceeding with the FCC to move 2,800 Starlink satellites to different levels in orbit.
John Janka, Viasat’s chief officer for global government affairs and regulatory, said: ‘It is not just SpaceX, these concerns are about mega constellations in general – anyone proposing to send thousands and tens of thousands of satellites into orbit’
‘This is why we are doing this now,’ he said.
There has been an outcry from scientists and skygazers about Starlink satellites adding light pollution to the night sky, which is also cited in Viasat’s petition.
Musk announced last year that the satellites would soon include an ‘anti-reflective’ sun visor.
SpaceX launched its first batch with the new feature, called ‘VisorSat,’ this summer, which deploys after launch and blocks sunlight from reflecting off the satellite’s surface.
The overall goal, according to Musk, is to ‘make the satellites invisible to the naked eye within a week, and to minimize the impact on astronomy.’
‘A number of people say that the problem hasn’t been solved,’ Janka said.
‘SpaceX in particular was trying to address those issues, but hey have not resolved them.’
Another section of Viasat’s petition states ‘SpaceX’s proposed system raises significant issues with respect to orbital safety.’
Musk’s firm plans to launch at last 10,000 new Starlink satellites into orbit over the next 15 year, which, according to Viasat, would densely populate Earth’s orbit.
‘That is about the number of the satellites launched since the space age in the 50s,’ said Janka.
‘When someone is talking about doing this with that many satellites in the next 15 years, then there is cause to raise concerns to the FCC.’
Viasat also highlights concerns that the internet satellites will add to the already massive amount of space junk due to Starlink’s ‘experiential failure rate.’
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has a pending proceeding with the FCC to move 2,800 Starlink satellites to different levels in orbit and Viasta is petitioning now before the FCC approves Musk’s request
Viasat stated that an independent evaluation found there has been a total of 78 failed satellites out of 953 launched during a 12 to 18 month period, representing an 8.2 percent failure rate (or a 2.7 percent failure rate ignoring the v0.9 satellites).
‘At this rate hundreds, if not thousands, of Starlink satellites can be expected to become uncontrollable orbital debris that remain a source of collision risk for years,’ reads Viasat’s petition.
‘If the standard is one in 1,000 chance of collision, you would say that is not very likely,’ said Janka.
‘If someone puts thousand in orbit, a statistician will tell you it is almost a certainty you are going to have a collision.’
‘Collisions are very bad. They pollute space. They make it difficult for others to share outer space and the endanger astronauts.
‘It’s time to think of these things and it needs to be thought about before it is too late – it is hard to put the genie back in the bottle.’
Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and the Chandra X-ray Center presented his own analysis in October on the failure percentage.
There has been an outcry from scientists and skygazers about Starlinks adding light pollution to the night sky, which is also included in Viasat’s petition. Musk announced last year that the satellites would soon include an ‘anti-reflective’ sun visor
McDowell determined three percent failed because they were no longer responding to commands, but notes that ‘some level of attrition is inevitable, and three percent is relatively low as failure rates go.’
‘I would say their failure rate is not egregious. It’s not worse than anybody else’s failure rates,’ he said.
Included with Musk’s tweet regarding Viasat’s petition was another jab: ‘Stop the sneaky moves, Charlie Ergen.’
Ergen is the CEO of Dish Network and a Viasat spokesperson told DailyMail.com that ‘he was not involved with the FCC filing, he never is.’
Janka also commented on Musks statement saying ‘He seemed a little confused, mixing up companies and executives.’
ELON MUSK’S SPACEX SET TO BRING BROADBAND INTERNET TO THE WORLD WITH ITS STARLINK CONSTELLATION OF SATELLITES
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched the fifth batch of its ‘Starlink’ space internet satellites – taking the total to 300.
They form a constellation of thousands of satellites, designed to provide low-cost broadband internet service from low Earth orbit.
The constellation, informally known as Starlink, and under development at SpaceX’s facilities in Redmond, Washington.
Its goal is to beam superfast internet into your home from space.
While satellite internet has been around for a while, it has suffered from high latency and unreliable connections.
Starlink is different. SpaceX says putting a ‘constellation’ of satellites in low earth orbit would provide high-speed, cable-like internet all over the world.
The billionaire’s company wants to create the global system to help it generate more cash.
Musk has previously said the venture could give three billion people who currently do not have access to the internet a cheap way of getting online.
It could also help fund a future city on Mars.
Helping humanity reach the red planet is one of Musk’s long-stated aims and was what inspired him to start SpaceX.
The company recently filed plans with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit above the Earth – three times as many that are currently in operation.
‘Once fully deployed, the SpaceX system will pass over virtually all parts of the Earth’s surface and therefore, in principle, have the ability to provide ubiquitous global service,’ the firm said.
‘Every point on the Earth’s surface will see, at all times, a SpaceX satellite.’
The network will provide internet access to the US and the rest of the world, it added.
It is expected to take more than five years and $9.8 billion (£7.1bn) of investment, although satellite internet has proved an expensive market in the past and analysts expect the final bill will be higher.
Musk compared the project to ‘rebuilding the internet in space’, as it would reduce reliance on the existing network of undersea fibre-optic cables which criss-cross the planet.
In the US, the FCC welcomed the scheme as a way to provide internet connections to more people.