A private space exploration company recently launched a rocket that was carrying a giant ball that could interfere with the work of other astronomers. Satellite Humanity Star, (image via Rocket Lab)
There is a joke that refers to buying real estate on the moon as a scam, but with the recent developments in aerospace, buying real estate on the moon might not seem so farfetched in a few years. The world of space travel sees disruption after disruption with more and more companies joining the race. Whoever said that putting a man on the moon was a giant step for humanity, certainly did not envision the current climate. From Elon Musk to Richard Branson to Jeff Bezos, everyone capable to afford it has an idea of how to exploit our earth's orbit as much as possible. Recently, it is Rocket Lab, one of the newbies in the race that is giving a headache to astronomers with the launch of "Humanity Star."
Rocket Lab is the mind child of Peter Beck, a New Zealand engineer, with the dream to put his name on a piece of the sky. Born 12 years ago, the startup has its headquarters in Los Angeles, CA but is the pride of New Zealand. On Rocket Lab's website, it reads that space travel newbie desires to provide a more affordable option to companies or individuals interested in exploiting the Earth's orbit. With its rocket "Electron," the company will be offering what they consider ridesharing: carrying multiple satellites for various companies; thus, cutting the cost of transportation for the customers. Another aspect of Rocket Lab's operations that allows it to compete with prices is that all their spaceships, services and systems are "homemade." From a business standpoint, it looks like a smart decision to avoid middlemen so that the production can be cheaper and therefore offer a better price to customers. Some might argue that it is possible to outsource to China and save on costs, but in an industry like space travel where the competition is rude, outsourcing might feel like declaring bankruptcy.
However, Rocket Lab is not playing in all pools. The company is targeting specifically the launch of smaller satellites which according to experts are becoming more popular because they are easier to make and less expensive to launch. In a recent test launch, the New Zealand company successfully release a satellite name "Humanity Star" which will be increasing the garbage in our planet's orbit. Even though the satellite could be used either for weather analysis or earth imaging, astronomers are viewing it as an invitation card to other companies interested to launch smaller satellites. The argument is that the more satellites we have in our sky, the harder it will become for those studying the space beyond our sky, to see what needs to be. In addition, the Earth's orbit has already enough junk from earlier space voyages, that current satellites have difficulty moving in the orbit.
It feels like history likes to repeat itself or maybe humans like to make history repeat itself. Between the marches for gender equality, race equality, the wars this country is engaged in, the debate about global warming and the technology climate, one could say we went back to the 50s and 60s. Who can predict what is to happen next? While there are more discussions about protecting the planet and reversing the damages human operations have caused to the blue planet, it is baffling to see that technology has empowered a few to create even more damage to the universe. How has launching satellites become the interest of private companies? How many more satellites does the world need to function properly?
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