Star Pavilion Saturday 2023

Large satellite constellations; will ET be able to phone home?

SpaceX and other companies have revolutionized space industry by launching tens of spacecraft at each time, reducing costs of launches, and producing satellites in series at an astonishing pace. This created the era of the large satellite constellations (or so-called mega-constellations) which are now composed of several thousands of satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and are intended to provide internet connectivity in every corner of the planet. The benefits of having better and more connectivity come with some downsides though – the sunlight reflected on the satellites’ surface can make them visible to the naked eye and can have a profound impact on optical astronomy for instance; in addition, the radio waves transmitted by the satellites can “blind” radio telescopes in certain frequencies. In this talk, Square Kilometre Array’s Federico di Vruno will present the current situation and the future plans of satellite constellations, explain how astronomy and the night sky can be impacted and the ongoing efforts to mitigate this (from industry, astronomy, regulation, etc). Hopefully at the end of this talk, the listeners will have a better grasp of what is going on in space and the pros and cons from an earthling’s perspective. ET will surely be able to phone home but with all the radio noise being generated, the question remains: will he be able to hear the response back?

Federico Di Vruno is the Spectrum Manager at the SKA Observatory and one of two Co-Directors of the IAU Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference (IAU CPS). He specialises in the protection of the radio spectrum for astronomical use. Before his involvement in Radio Astronomy, he worked in the space industry, in electromagnetic compatibility and radio frequency interference in communication and scientific spacecraft.

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