Elon Musk has promised that Starlink will have “zero” impact on astronomy amid growing concerns the satellites could impede researchers.
Starlink is the satellite constellation that Musk’s other company, SpaceX, is sending into orbit. SpaceX is launching batches of dozens of satellites at a time. The company has initial permission to launch 12,000 satellites, with the goal being to eventually launch as many as 42,000 satellites, far more than the 2,000 active satellites currently in orbit. The company’s goal is to use the satellites to provide high-speed internet access to under-served communities around the world.
Astronomers, however, have raised concerns that having that many satellites in orbit could severely impede research of the cosmos by preventing instruments from getting a clear view of the sky. As Digital Trends points out, this is especially a problem for long-exposure images, where the satellites show up as streaks. There are also concerns they could interfere with the radio waves astronomers rely on.
According to Forbes, at the 2020 Satellite Conference, Elon Must insisted that Starlink will not cause problems and the company will be aggressive in addressing any issues.
“I am confident that we will not cause any effect whatsoever in astronomical discoveries,” Musk said. “Zero. That’s my prediction. We’ll take corrective action if it’s above zero.”
Musk highlighted the company’s work on using a darkening treatment to minimize reflections, and raised the possibility of a “sunshade.”
“We’re launching a sunshade, changing the color of the satellite… aesthetically this should not be an impact.”
It remains to be seen if SpaceX can deliver on Musk’s promise, although the future of the company’s planned expansion likely rides on the outcome.