Elon Musk’s satellites could prevent humans from going to space, NASA warns

NASA has warned that Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites could prevent humans from going to space.

The American space agency raised the concerns because of the increased risk of collision in Earth’s orbit, as Starlink’s expansion would “more than double the number of tracked objects in orbit”.

NASA told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it had worries about “the potential for a significant increase in the frequency of conjunction events and possible impacts to NASA’s science and human spaceflight missions”.

There are currently 25,000 total objects in orbit around the Earth, with over 6,000 of them below 600km.

Apart from doubling the number of tracked objects in orbit, an expansion of Starlink would “increase the number of objects below 600km over five-fold", NASA also said.

SpaceX has 1,469 Starlink satellites active, along with 272 which are moving to operational orbits soon and has plans to deploy roughly 30,000 satellites in total into orbit.

Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said: "We’ve been concerned with having these large numbers of satellites that interfere with astronomical observations.

“I think we need a little more experience with the several thousand operating satellites before we can ramp up to the tens of thousands."

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Amazon, which is competing with SpaceX’s Starlink with its own Project Kuiper program, also raised concerns about the program as tens of thousands of satellites could interfere with its own system.

"The effect of this orbital overlap would be a dramatic increase in risks and other burdens on the Kuiper System," the firm said. It asked the FCC to impose "reasonable conditions".

This isn’t the first time Amazon has raised similar concerns, saying that such interference would be “dangerous”.

SpaceX claimed that Amazon was trying to “hamstring” Starlink and has had “30 meetings to oppose SpaceX” but “no meetings to authorise its own system.”

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