Faced with astronomers’ fears about its constellation of satellites, Elon Musk tries to reassure

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Faced with astronomers' fears about its constellation of satellites, Elon Musk tries to reassure





© AFP
Elon Musk believes that his constellation will not cause “the slightest impact”.


It will “not have the slightest impact on astronomical discoveries”. Elon Musk said on Monday that his famous Starlink project – which is intended to provide Internet access to users from space – should in no way hinder astronomers’ observations. In fact, while about 300 satellites have already been placed into orbit, it is expected that this number will increase rapidly, potentially up to 42,000.

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And if the boss of Space X wanted to dismiss the concerns, it is because a wind of panic had blown after the launch of the first 60 satellites last May. The satellites had formed a chain of 60 bright points raising fears of a visual pollution which spoils the observations by telescope in the long term.

“I am convinced that we will not cause the slightest impact on astronomical discoveries, zero,” said the founder of Space X at a press conference in Washington. “It’s my prediction, we will take corrective action if it’s above zero.”

He said the problem only arose when the satellites were gaining altitude to go into orbit and that it no longer existed when they reached their final position.

Global coverage by 2021

Elon Musk, however, said that his company was working with the scientific community to reduce their gloss, for example by painting certain parts in black rather than white.

The constellation is expected to be launched for the northern United States and Canada within the year, with global coverage planned for 2021.

Elon Musk has not given details about the future price of his service. The power will be sufficient to watch movies in high definition or play video games without significant latency.

$ 30 billion a year

The terminal to receive the signal will look like “a UFO on a stick,” he said, assuring that its installation would be very easy. “The box will contain only two instructions, which can be followed in any order: point to the sky, and plug in.”

The antenna will then automatically align with one of the satellites. The service targets primarily the niche market of users living in isolated regions, which therefore does not threaten traditional telecommunications companies, according to Elon Musk.

Elon Musk hopes to eventually gain 3 to 5% of the global internet market, a share estimated at 30 billion dollars per year.

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