Earth orbital space: who’s in charge?

Tech billionaire Elon Musk has said that his Starlink satellite-based internet will be able to connect anyone, anywhere – except the polar regions – by August of this year. Musk’s floating head made the extraordinary promise via video call at the 2021 Mobile World Congress (an annual mobile communications trade show) in early July.

Starlink, a global internet service carried by satellites rather than cables, promises to provide high-speed broadband internet to just about anyone who needs it. It appears to be an ideal solution for remote communities, where laying ground infrastructure can be challenging.

So far, so good. But, alarmingly for some, to achieve this feat Musk’s space company, SpaceX, already has approval to send some 12,000 satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO) by 2026. That’s on top of the 1500 satellites already in orbit. In 2019 the company filed paperwork at the International Telecommunications Union for approval for 30,000 more.

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