Why Question 42,000 SpaceX Satellites? Lots of Reasons! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Countdown to March 19/20th, 2021 Global Protest – Part 2

By Patricia Burke

There are unresolved issues about blanketing low earth orbit (LEO) with satellites, in order to provide wireless telecommunications and surveillance, from space.

In Part 1, we looked at the fact that “there are no trashcans in space.”

“NASA scientist Donald Kessler warned in a paper written in 1978, that every collision of man-made objects in space generates more shrapnel and debris as pieces fly apart on impact. The effect is cumulative, as new debris collides with other objects it creates even more debris. Ultimately, space will become impassable because of the continuous cascade of colliding debris, including destruction of telecommunications systems and nullifying of further space launches.”[1]

Part 2 focuses on further risks of ignoring the pollution of low earth orbit, and the unaddressed issue of bringing the human impact of littering and trash to space itself.

As we count down to the March 19, 20th Global Protest actions, coinciding with the Equinox, we’ll look at a few concerns voiced by experts, and an informed public.

SPACE WASTE SOLUTIONS:  “Humans filled waterways, landfills, and streets with trash, so it’s no surprise the same thing happened in Earth’s orbit.  The Space Pollution Facts It is estimated that hundreds of millions of pieces of space debris float through our area of the solar system. Many are as big as trucks, while some are smaller than a fleck of paint. Earth’s gravitational field grabs lots of space trash and drags it into lower and lower orbits until it burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere. When space trash orbits at higher altitudes, it will remain in orbit years longer than space trash moving in orbits lower than 600 km. Scientists estimate that space trash at altitudes higher than 1,000 km above Earth’s atmosphere can continue orbiting for a hundred years or more.”[2]

SPACE WASTE SOLUTIONS: “When blackened tanks from a Hawthorne-made SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage rocket accidentally rained down onto an Indonesian island last year, the nation got a palpable encounter with a problem known as “space junk.” Luckily, the rocket-propellant tanks that survived the white-hot burn of the Earth’s outer atmosphere didn’t hit any people or animals, even though one landed on a farm. But the incident highlighted an increasingly worrying issue in the aerospace community: There is no global agreement to prevent and clean up debris left behind in orbit.”[3] [4]

GLOBE AND MAIL: “Satellites and space debris are polluting our orbit. More than the stars are at stake Humanity has spent 60 years sending more and more advanced satellites into orbit and not bothering to clean up the junk. Now, private ventures threaten to make it worse – and unless we act, exploring and even seeing outer space will get much harder These days, we are keenly aware of the impact pollution has had on our environment – our lakes and oceans, tundras, deserts and atmosphere. Although it’s a different kind of pollution, we should also pay more attention to what we’re doing higher up, in that portion of outer space surrounding our planet. It, too, will have a profound effect on our future.”[5]

FROM FRANCE REPORTERRE.NET: “With Starlink, Elon Musk innovates in pollution With the planned shipment of 42,000 spacecraft, including 12,000 in constant orbit, Elon Musk’s high-speed satellite internet network is taking over the Earth. This profusion of objects produces enormous light pollution in space and also endangers the Earth’s environment. In total, the Tesla boss wants to produce 42,000 satellites, the unheard of in the history of aeronautics. Again, the predation of land resources and energy to produce millions of components could be enormous.”[6]

SCI TECH DAILY: “Space debris is an issue of global concern that threatens our continued use of near-Earth space for the benefit of humankind.“Near space is finite—it’s a finite resource,” Jah said. “So now you have this growing trash problem that isn’t being remediated…. And if we exceed the capacity of the environment to carry all this traffic safely, then it becomes unusable.” That’s why a growing chorus of critics are already making the case that space is the next major environmental area to protect, after the oceans and land on Earth. “People seem to really treat resources in space as being infinite,” said Erika Nesvold, an astrophysicist who’s the co-founder of The JustSpace Alliance. “As we’ve seen, people don’t really intuitively understand exponential growth.”[7] Part of what makes near-Earth orbit so chaotic is that it is, at the moment, remarkably unregulated—not unlike the internet of the early ’90s.” [8]

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SATELLITE TODAY: “In an FCC filing on Dec. 22, Viasat outlined its environmental concerns with Starlink and with SpaceX’s request to relocate the satellites to lower orbital altitudes, specifically arguing that the modification would accelerate the time period in which the satellites reenter the atmosphere; it would likely increase light pollution; and would likely increase space debris. Viasat has asked the FCC to prepare an environmental impact statement or an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to detail the environmental impacts of major federal actions.  Viasat argued that SpaceX prioritizes “disposability and replaceability” of its satellites over “reliability and safety.” [9]

SPACE.COM: “to provide coverage of the entire planet with small satellites requires a lot of them. On top of this, they have to orbit close to Earth’s surface to reduce interruption of coverage and communication delays. This means they take up an already busy area of space called low Earth orbit, the space 100 to 2,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. There are many issues associated with introducing this many satellites into orbit, from the dangers of space junk to obstructing our view of the night sky….it can still take up to about 150 years for satellites to be removed, by re-entering the atmosphere and burning up, if they are about 750 km above sea level. Some are removed purposefully, through controlled reentry, and others are designed to fall in an uncontrolled way. Satellite and mega-constellation operators must consider ways of reducing the debris caused by these satellites above and beyond the usual procedure, in order to maintain a sustainable use of low Earth orbit. Given the amount of future mega-constellations currently planned, the space around Earth termed low Earth orbit could easily become a limited resource.”[10]

SPACE WASTE SOLUTIONS: “A 2011 report by the National Research Council warned that Earth orbit paths may be reaching a “tipping point” where collisions will become more common. The researchers suggest that the immediate, orbital space around Earth could be 10 to 20 years away from severe issues. It is estimated that hundreds of millions of pieces of space debris float through our area of the solar system. Many are as big as trucks, while some are smaller than a fleck of paint. NASA tracks rocket boosters, spacecraft pieces, and particles and fragments cause by space crashes or explosions are the kinds of space trash whirling around Earth up to 36,000 km per hour. Will Space Be Clean Enough in Time? These great advances in tracking and eliminating space junk and debris will help clear out the orbital paths around the Earth. The primary concern is if the clearance will happen in time for our population to successfully colonize outer space. As human population grows and grows, the only viable answer for expanding our world is in settling in outer space.”[11]

In addition to the impact of a sea of satellites and space debris circling the earth, rockets are required to get satellites into the air. How much do rockets pollute?

EVERYDAY AUSTRONAUT: WHAT IS THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ROCKETS HAVE ON OUR AIR? WHAT ACTUALLY COMES OUT THE FLAMEY END OF A ROCKET? Rockets can produce many different emissions. But here is the list of usual suspects: CO2, water vapor, carbon soot, carbon monoxide (which pretty much will all bond and become carbon dioxide), NOx, chlorine, alumina and sulfuric compounds. Chlorine, alumina and nitrogen oxides can destroy ozone and are therefore considered ozone-depleting substances or ODS, and have been very heavily monitored and restricted since 1996. CO2, nitrogen oxides, soot and water vapor are greenhouse gases, or act as one, since soot is not a gas. These are elements that absorb more heat than the current equilibrium of our atmosphere. This is called radiative forcing and we will get more into that later. But simply put, if there is more of these substances in our atmosphere, our atmosphere will have the ability to trap more heat from the sun, it is just that simple. Chlorine is considered a hazardous air pollutant by the EPA. Furthermore, sulfuric compounds and nitrogen oxides can cause acid rain and is really bad for marine life, trees, and anything living. Solid rocket boosters are typically composed of hydrochloric acid, or more specifically ammonium perchlorate, the salt of perchloric acid and ammonia, which are powerful oxidizers, and aluminum or magnesium powders! These are held together by a binder, usually hydroxyl terminated polybutadiene (known as HTPB) or polybutadiene acrylonitrile (known as PBAN). Which makes the propellant into a rubbery like mixture. This means they emit primarily aluminum oxide, soot or black carbon, CO2, hydrogen chloride, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen and a few other trace gases. ..putting something into orbit requires an unbelievable amount of energy. So as we go forward, keep in mind, we are not talking about long haul trucking here, we are talking about accelerating huge payloads 10 times faster than a bullet! [12]

EVERYDAY ASTRONAUT: WHAT IS THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ROCKETS HAVE ON OUR AIR? WHY ROCKET EMISSIONS ARE UNIQUE! Because rockets burn propellant in all layers of the atmosphere including the upper atmosphere, known as the stratosphere, and even beyond that, their effects can last a lot longer since they do not get cycled as quickly as down at sea level. Seeing as CO2, soot and water vapor are greenhouse gases, the longer they are in the air, the more time they have to warm up our planet due to a process known as radiative forcing. Water vapor in the lower atmosphere cycles really quickly into clouds and rain, and nature pretty much automatically regulates it no problem. Water vapor is actually a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. You can think of CO2 as more of the thermostat and water vapor as heater, kind of. But regardless, CO2 emissions in the stratosphere from rockets is not really that different than CO2 emissions in the troposphere or lower atmosphere. But, carbon soot and alumina is what we should be most concerned about putting in the stratosphere instead of water vapor or CO2. So rockets that have SRBs or RP-1 will produce a fair amount of soot and or alumina, and one study showed that they generate about 30 times more atmospheric heating or radiative forcing than a hydrolox rocket. When it comes to emissions in the troposphere and stratosphere, altitude really matters. There are certain spots between the two layers where condensation can form, that greenhouse gases can have a much larger impact. Researchers found that when planes fly in the conditions which make condensation trails, which is the right mix of altitude, humidity and temperature, those frozen ice cloud-like streaks in the sky actually trap a surprising amount of heat in our atmosphere. One study published in February, 2020 by a group of researchers from the Imperial College London found minor changes in jetliners’ altitude can have DRASTIC changes on their emissions’ effects.” [13]

(DISCLAIMER:  While not advocating a stance on controversies of global warming and climate change discussions, engaged environmental groups and policy makers can note cautions voiced by experts.)

LA TIMES: “Besides greenhouse gas pollution, kerosene-fueled rockets transport large amounts of black carbon, also known as soot, into the upper layers of the atmosphere. There, it remains for a long time, creating an umbrella that may add to global warming. The fuel is widely used because it’s easier to handle than fuels such as hydrogen.”[14]

Media headlines promote the advantages of using satellites to track animal migration, melting of the ice caps, wildfires, air pollution, weather and other variables?

It’s not raining cats and dog here….

It’s raining “cylindrical vessels around 150 centimeters tall and 60 centimeters in diameter, comprised of composite material with visible serial numbers. These represent the upper stage’s Helium pressurant tanks that store the gas at very high pressure to be heated up in flight and fed to the propellant tanks to keep them at the proper operating pressures.”[15]

Get Involved: https://stop5ginternational.org/5g-protest-day-march-20-2021/

However big or small: March, Protest, Gathering, Leafleting, Film Screening, Beach Action, Statue Action, Whatever you do, take pictures & broadcast your event all over Social Media  to give it a boost. No event close by and short on time to organize one, invite friends and family to join in with CHALKAVISM…a fun way to convey your message to passersby. Take a picture, post on Social Media, and please do send our way!  [email protected] Post an announcement of your Event to Global Action to Stop 5G, https://www.facebook.com/groups/548912049259423/ and to …and to Stop 5G International, https://stop5ginternational.org/5g-protest-day-march-20-2021/

SpaceX Protest Promo Video created by Amber Yang.  https://stop5ginternational.org/spacex-satellite-protest-march-19-2021/

SpaceX Protest Rally in Hawthorne, California  Announcement and sign-up form.  Satellites, rockets, and 5G on earth and in sky. What is the cost to health and the environment? https://stop5ginternational.org/5g-spacex-satellite-protest-march-19-2021/

Open Letter to Elon Musk on SpaceX Satellite Deployment Organizations and individuals are invited to sign this Letter to Elon Musk. The letter will be hand delivered to SpaceX headquarters by a group of children at the March 19th rally. After all, it’s their future Musk is messing with. https://stop5ginternational.org/open-letter-to-elon-musk-spacex/

RAP DIRECTED TO Elon Musk announcing the March 19th SpaceX Protest Event in Hawthorne California. Produced by the wonderful team of Emma Cairo and Question Mark. (Lyrics can be found in the commentary beneath the video.)  “Hey Mr. Elon Musk, What the Actual F%#k!!…We’re asking why are you F%#kin’ Up the Sky?!”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tc2im6E2MUo

OUR WORLD, OUR SKY: Art Celebration For Children  Dear, Dear Children, We want to hear from you and to see through your eyes. To help us celebrate the 5G Global Day of Action on March 20th, 2021, we’re holding an Art Celebration for Children. We invite you to do a drawing, a painting, create sand art on the beach, a chalk drawing on the pavement, write a poem, sing a song, choreograph a mime or a dance about the Earth and Sky. What do you love the most about the sky? How do you feel when you look up at the sky?  What does the sky mean to you? What would you say to the stars and to the planets? What are they telling us?  Imagine the most beautiful world that you can. What would it look like? Should the sky be preserved for all living beings – birds, insects, animals, trees, plants and the Earth too? How will satellites harm the natural world? Just send us a photo, video, or recording of your art, and we will post it on our website for all to see!! Thank you, dear children…wonderful inheritors of our future. With Love from the Team at, Stop 5G International https://stop5ginternational.org/our-world-our-sky-art-celebration-for-children/

Open Letter on 5G Health and Environmental Effects by Devra Davis 13-page Open Letter and bibliography to be used as a tool around the world for activists opposing 5G. The purpose of this letter is to provide “the science” to elected reps, city councils, NGOs, school administrators, and others when they look at you askance and say, “Show me the science.”  https://ehtrust.org/dr-devra-davis-and-environmental-health-trust-open-letter-on-5g/

Healthy Heavens Trust Declaration on satellites https://www.5g-ilan.com

Sign the 5G Space Appeal https://www.5gspaceappeal.org

References:

[1] https://www.spacewastesolutions.com/the-outer-space-pollution-facts/

[2] https://www.spacewastesolutions.com/the-outer-space-pollution-facts/

[3] https://www.spacewastesolutions.com/aerospace-corp-orbital-space-debris/

[4] https://spaceflight101.com/falcon-9-jcsat-16/spacex-rocket-parts-rain-down-over-indonesia/

[5] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-we-are-polluting-outer-space-its-time-to-clean-up-our-orbit/

[6] https://reporterre.net/Avec-Starlink-Elon-Musk-innove-dans-la-pollution

[7] https://boingboing.net/2020/12/05/the-next-trash-problem-is-in-low-earth-orbit.html

[8] https://scitechdaily.com/space-debris-threatens-our-continued-use-of-near-earth-space-for-the-benefit-of-humankind/

[9] https://www.satellitetoday.com/broadband/2021/01/04/viasat-requests-fcc-look-into-environmental-impact-of-spacexs-starlink-constellation/

[10] https://www.space.com/satellite-megaconstellations-growing-space-crash-rules

[11] https://www.spacewastesolutions.com/the-outer-space-pollution-facts/

[12] https://everydayastronaut.com/rocket-pollution/

[13] https://everydayastronaut.com/rocket-pollution/

[14] https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-01-30/space-launch-carbon-emissions

[15] https://spaceflight101.com/falcon-9-jcsat-16/spacex-rocket-parts-rain-down-over-indonesia/

Top image: Artwork Courtesy Flo Freshman Go with Flo!

Patricia Burke works with activists across the country and internationally calling for new biologically-based microwave radio frequency exposure limits. She is based in Massachusetts and can be reached at [email protected].

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