In recent years, satellites have become smaller, cheaper, and easier to build with commercial off-the-shelf parts. Some even weigh less than One gram. This means that more people can afford to send it into orbit. Now, satellite operators are starting to launch massive constellations – groups of hundreds or even thousands of small satellites working together – in Earth orbit.
Instead of one large satellite, groups of small satellites can provide coverage for the entire planet at once. Civilian, military and private operators are increasingly using the towers to create global, continuous coverage of the Earth. Towers can provide a variety of functions, including climate monitoring, disaster management, or digital connectivity, such as satellite broadband.
But to provide coverage for the entire planet with small satellites it takes a lot of them. Moreover, they are required to rotate close to the ground surface to reduce coverage interruptions and connection delays. This means that it occupies an already congested area of space called low Earth orbit, which is 100 to 2000 km above the Earth’s surface.
There are several issues associated with bringing multiple satellites into orbit, from Junk space hazards to me Our view is obstructed From the night sky. But the shift toward massive constellations is also a challenge for global space management.
exist Nearly 3,000 active satellites In Earth orbit today, this is set To rise In the coming years. The European Commission, for example, recently Announce your plans To launch thousands of satellites into Earth orbit, as well as a growing list of massive tower launches planned.
As companies and governments around the world continue to pursue mega-signs, it is critical that the governance framework is able to support the surge in activity. There are a number of important problems that must be taken into consideration.
Satellites are regulated nationally and by licensing, guided by principles The Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Although there are no terms for constellation or massive constellation in the treaty, they are considered extraterrestrials, like all other satellites.
Since procedures and regulations vary from country to country, the challenge is how to manage massive towers without creating legal segmentation. It is necessary to discuss the issue at the international level.
However, there is currently no legally binding definition of a satellite constellation, nor for the more recent term massive constellation. The exact number of satellites that make up the massive constellation is unknown, and each country can consider the term to mean something different. Clarity at the international level could pave the way for the development of guidelines for megastars, which can assist in the safe and sustainable use of LEO.
Most of the satellites operate in low Earth orbit at an altitude between 600 and 800 km above sea level. This is a busy area, as there are actually a lot of satellites there. Smaller satellites have a shorter lifespan than larger satellites, which usually orbit over low Earth orbit.
However, removing satellites could still take up to 150 years, by re-entering the atmosphere and burning them, if they were at an altitude of 750 km above sea level. Some of them are removed intentionally, through a controlled re-entry, and others are designed to fall out in an unsupervised manner. Satellite and massive tower operators should consider ways to reduce debris from these satellites beyond standard procedures, in order to maintain sustainable use of LEO.
Given the number of future mega-constellations currently planned, LEO space could easily become a finite resource.
3. Radio spectrum
This is not only true when it comes to physical space, but also radio use. To communicate, satellites use the radio spectrum. With the increase in massive towers, there is a risk that operators will “store” radio frequencies, storing them before they actually need them.
To prevent this, a specialized agency of the United Nations recently used the satellite radio spectrum Modernizing its regulatory framework, And deal with the issue separately from other space systems. The massive constellations will be placed on a flexible schedule, giving them only the use of the frequencies they need at the time.
4. Avoid collision and tracking
If LEO becomes crowded with satellites and massive constellations, avoiding collisions becomes more difficult. In September 2019, the European Space Agency Had to shoot The boosters on one of its satellites to drive it away by another satellite, otherwise the two would have collided.
As the orbit becomes increasingly congested, more collision avoidance maneuvers and better communication between satellite operators may be required.
There is a national effort, primarily in the United States, for satellite tracking and collision avoidance maneuvers. The system alerts satellite operators of potential collision paths and allows course correction wherever possible.
Hope the mega constellations are discussed by Member States of the United Nations Once they can do that. Although work on the commission can be slow and very political, international guidelines along with national licensing procedures need to add considerations for the massive towers.
The benefits of massive constellations and constellations in LEO for social, economic and environmental purposes are significant. For this reason, it seems likely that the number of signs will increase in the near future. To ensure that we avoid the emerging problems, the rules and definitions of mega-towers must be clarified, on an international scale.
This article before Lauren NapierPhD Researcher in Space Law and Policy, Northumbria University, Newcastle It was republished from Conversation Under a Creative Commons license. Read the The original article.
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