The world is not enough. Companies like SpaceX and Amazon are competing for the Internet from space. Tens of thousands of satellites are planned. China also wants to build a mega-network. Experts fear overcrowding in Earth’s orbit and dangers for space travel.
In the global race for a satellite-supported Internet, China now also wants to establish itself as a major player. So far, the company SpaceX of Tesla founder Elon Musk with his Starlink project as well as the London company OneWeb and the Amazon group with similar projects have been present. Now China is also speeding up with the establishment of its own mega-network of satellites. In April, the China Satellite Network Group was founded under state leadership, which bundles all activities. According to the plans known so far, more than 20,000 Chinese satellites are to be brought into orbit.
With the tens of thousands of other satellites that SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon want to send into space for their internet services, the Earth’s environment is getting really tight. First come, first served, is the motto. Critics are talking about land grabbing in the Wild West manner. “That is obviously the situation right now,” warns space expert Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He sees dangers for space travel from Earth orbit, which is already full of space debris and is now additionally filled.
“I think a major collision is inevitable at one point,” says the astrophysicist from the German press agency. He suggests creating a supervisory body to control international traffic in space in order to mitigate the risks. The number of satellites must also be limited at certain heights in order to prevent overcrowding. Light pollution from the reflection of sunlight on the solar panels of the satellites can therefore also be a problem, creating bright spots in the starry sky and irritating astronomers and star lovers. In particular, the OneWeb satellites in higher orbits of around 1,200 kilometers are likely to change the natural night sky: “The lower orbits at 500 kilometers that are used by Starlink are not that bad, but could also cause us some problems,” the astrophysicist fears.