• 12 AUG 18
    • 0

    Elon Musk’s 5G from space project: His biggest folly yet?

    So, Elon Musk wants to launch into low-earth orbit some 4000 satellites so everyone globally can enjoy the benefits of 5G reception. Before this ever gets off the ground, however, Musk better come up with a way to clean up all the space junk he may well be creating and possibly triggering what is known as the Kessler Syndrome.

    My faith in Musk as a visionary took as real hit when he recently proposed sending over a kid sized miniature submarine made out of spare rocket parts¬ to the Thailand cave complex to rescue the trapped teenage soccer team. Even to the untrained observer, it seemed absurd to send a metal canister the size of a torpedo into the complex 10 mile long cave system. This certainly was the opinion of expert cave diver, Vern Unsworth who called it just a publicity stunt that “had absolutely no chance of working”, stating that Musk “had no conception of what the cave passage was like”. Unsworth¬ provocatively added that Musk can¬ “stick his submarine where it hurts”. Obviously, that last comment must have upset Musk, but to reply Trump-like, in a tweet calling Unsworth a pedophile, with absolutely no evidence to back up the claim was beyond the pale and it was quickly removed.

    As for Musk’s StarLink Internet Project with the ambitious promise to deliver 5G internet access to every corner of the globe, it will require launching over 4000 satellites into low-earth orbit. This is far more than Iridium’s, current project to launch 75 Iridium satellites into space. As for global warming greenhouse gasses, it is estimated that a single SpaceX launch, for example, produces about 370,245 kg of carbon dioxide which is slightly more than what a diesel car would produce after driving one million miles. Although a single launch may emit an insufficient amount of carbon when compared to overall global emissions, what about multiplying that by 4000? Also see: Spaceflight Pollution: How Do Rocket Launches and Space Junk Affect Earth’s Atmosphere?

    Putting aside the carbon question, a far more pressing issue is that of the ever increasing amount of space junk orbiting the earth generated from previous launches. There is the very real possibility that this may result in what has been called the Kessler Syndrome proposed by NASA scientist Donald Kessler in 1978. Kessler saw a possible scenerio in which the density of objects in low earth orbit becomes high enough so that collisions between objects could cause a cascade where each collision generates more space debris thereby increasing the likelihood of further collisions creating more debris, etc. etc. One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space activities and the use of communications satellites infeasible for many generations. Not a good scenerio for Musk’s StarLink 5G Internet Project to say the least. Has Musk considered if launching over 4000 satellites just for global 5G reception is really worth the risk?


    Also see: Will space junk end our modern way of life ? – The Kessler Syndrome


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