A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2019 Jan 24, 18:48 -0800
Yeah, it's mostly hot air. Don't worry (yet). This story is over-blown by the people peddling it as a potential business. And it's over-blown by the media commenting on it.
How often have you seen the International Space Station in the past year? It's up there all the time. It's enormous. And yet you really have to try rather hard to catch it when it flies overhead. And despite being huge, all you see, even with binoculars, is a bright point of light like a commercial aircraft landing light. Just tonight, the ISS was scheduled for a near-90° pass over my location, but it's raining. So that's that.
Something like this satellite-advertising scheme might be tried for a one-off spectacle during a specific event. For example, it might be impressive to see the rings of the Olympics fly over in orbit during the opening ceremony of some future games. But this is so difficult to set up and so difficult to repeat that it would only last for a brief period of time. And it could never pay as advertising. Plus there are obviously better, cheaper options. Advertise on a blimp over an NFL football game for $50,000 or advertise from orbit on a path that's mostly over ocean and uninhabited parts of the world for $50 million. It's not a difficult choice!
Do you remember all the noise last year when the "disco ball" satellite was launched? There was all manner of hand-wringing and outrage over the pollution of the night sky by a narcissistic flashing satellite. Oh how awful. But in fact it was damn hard to see. I have been able to track down fewer than a dozen people who definitely saw it ...including me. It's really difficult to use a satellite for advertising. Even if blows up at random in a spectacular fireball, the most likely scenario is that no one sees the explosion since the human population of the planet is located in certain rather concentrated areas and even those are frequently clouded out.
The biggest threat to the night sky is probably the internet in orbit. Though plans have all crumbled previously, the current generations of the idea, including Elon Musk's StarLink, all depend on thousands of satellites. If these constellations of satellites fly, on any summer evening, even in the middle of nowhere, there will always be one or more of those satellites visible crossing the sky... guaranteeing that Fortnite players across the globe can kill each other with minimal latency.