For an overview of plans from some of the major satellite companies, please see: https://www.cellphonetaskforce.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Update-on-Satellites.pdf, courtesy of Arthur Firstenberg.
For an overview of satellite companies in China, please see: https://spacenews.com/automaker-geely-gains-approval-for-satellites-for-self-driving-constellation/
Dangers posed by satellites include space debris, collisions, depletion of the ozone layer; risk of devastating cyber attacks, pollution from rocket launches and from “dead” satellites burning up in the atmosphere; plutonium and uranium spills from nuclear-powered satellites and space vehicles; increase in already harmful levels of EMF radiation, permanent compromise of the night sky, interference with astronomical research and weather forecasting; effects on wildlife, yet more tracking, surveillance and erosion of privacy; vastly more energy consumption, and the “promise” of increasing the lethality of war.
Satellites are being used for commercial gain, be it communications, data-harvesting, growing artificial intelligence, weather-forecasting, smart cities, banking, critical infrastructure etc.. They are also being used by the military in Systems Warfare and are slated to increase the lethality of war.
Although SpaceX and other mega constellations claim satellites are necessary to “bridge the digital divide”, doing so would be far more effectively accomplished by means of safer wired connections, with wireless or laser filling in on essential services, if and where cable is absolutely unfeasible.
Satellite companies claim speeds will exceed those of fiber optics. But this is highly speculative as there are many variables to consider as data makes its way around the world. Satellite communications must also rely on laser, fiber, WiFi, and cell towers depending on the application, and speeds will vary accordingly.
High Earth Orbit (HEO) – c. 35,000 km above Earth (22,000 mi) (Geo-synchronous Orbit)
Middle Earth Orbit (MEO) – 2000 – 35,000 km above Earth (c. 1200 – 22,000 mi)
Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) – 160 to 2,000 km (99 to 1200 mi) above Earth, but primarily in the closer range, 160-1000 km (99 – 600 mi).
Space debris, aka space junk, refers to pieces of debris in space from “dead” satellites, collisions, or exploded missiles. There are currently millions of objects, some just millimeter sized, flying around space at about 18,000 mph. Due to the extraordinary speeds at which space debris travels (about 20 times the speed of a bullet), if a piece collides with a satellite, the space station, or other space objects it can cause much damage, and will generate yet more debris as a result of the collision. This is known as the Kessler Effect. Some experts predict this could render the skies “unusable” for decades.
Regulations and cleanup efforts lag far behind the growth in space junk.
For the time being, space operators are trying to track the debris in order to avoid collisions where possible.
Satellites and their accompanying earth-based infrastructure offer vastly more entry-points for so-called “bad actors” leaving both civilians and the armed forces around the world vulnerable to large-scale and devastating cyber-attacks. Recall that many systems on earth – electricity, banking, water, sewage etc. – are increasingly, and not-so-wisely, connected wirelessly to the internet via satellites and 5G-infrastructure. So, a cyber-attack could potentially shut down an entire city for weeks or months at a time.
Most recently, the ransomware cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline in the US was, according to Kitco News, the “most disruptive cyber-attack on record.” The attack prompted President Biden to issue an Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cyber Security. The vectors of attacks are increasing exponentially, so we’ll be playing “catch up” forever unless we remove wireless and satellites from critical infrastructure, and rely predominantly on safer, more secure, hardwired connections.
Further Resources on Cyber Security:
Cyber Warfare: U.S. Military Admits Immediate Danger Is ‘Keeping Us Up At Night’
Space Is Cybersecurity’s New Frontier
Fearing Satellite Hacks and Hijacks, White House Issues Space-Security Directive to Industry
Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity
5G and satellites have enabled the modernization of 21st century warfare by means of Systems Warfare. Systems warfare relies on a vast infrastructure of satellites, cell towers, antennas, sensors, and cameras that “vacuum up” as much data as possible. The sheer quantity of data is more than humans can make sense of and that wireless bandwidth can manage. So, the data is aggregated, sorted and sifted through by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to determine what is of value, how it can be combined, and to whom it should be directed. Command and Control (still predominantly manned by humans but increasingly being outsourced to machines) then sets the parameters for the data it will need for defense or offense in a given operation. Within seconds, “thanks” to systems warfare, the data supporting military aggression is “actionable.”
Secretary Robert O. Work, Senior Fellow for Defense and National Security at the Center for a New American Security and owner of TeamWork, a company that specializes in national security affairs and the future of warfare, states:
The US Department of Defense dubs this connected system of systems the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and “boasts” it will increase the lethality of war by enabling near real time communications, hypersonic missiles, spy systems, and Facial Recognition Technology. JADC2 will provide a vast communication network that will weave together all branches of the military – the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Space Force. The stated aim is for the US to gain dominion over space for both commercial and military advantage; for whoever controls the “high ground” (space) controls the “low ground” (Earth) as well. NATO, China, Russia and other countries are pressing for 5G and satellites as well.
Further Resources on 5G, Satellites and the Military:
Lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) are weapon systems that rely on artificial intelligence to identify, target, and kill humans without human control or intervention. Algorithms, not humans, make decisions.
LAWS are currently under development in many countries and may increasingly be used by state and non-state actors.
Lethal autonomous weapons are small, cheap to produce, and easy to assemble. When scaled (e.g. thousands of integrated drones), they can arguably be considered weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as they can wipe out an entire city in one coordinated attack. Because LAWS operate (i.e. communicate and make decisions) at speeds beyond human capabilities, the potential for undetected errors escalating is increased many times over. LAWS also can be easily hacked into adding yet another layer of danger.
LAWS have no human involvement beyond the initial launch of the action. Semi autonomous weapons (so-called “fire and forget”) keep the human in the loop by having a human select the target. Both LAWS and Semi-AWS are enabled and “enhanced” by the 5G/satellite/data harvesting/AI juggernaut. As there are currently no internationally agreed upon laws around either LAWS or Semi-AWS, and the lethality and scalability is so great that autonomous strikes may change the nature of war rendering everywhere on earth a potential “war zone”.
Drone swarms are not a collective of identical drones, but rather form a single, and more potent weapon system or “mind” that is integrated and communicates through 5G enabled artificial intelligence. Some drones survey and search for targets, others’ mission is to destroy buildings, and yet others are tasked with killing. Working together, the whole is more treacherous than the sum of its parts.
Autonomous weapon systems can be used in combination with chemical or biological weapons increasing the lethality of both.
A dystopian future is predicted in Slaughterbots, if LAWS remain unregulated and autonomous weapons and robotics are allowed to gain a foothold in the world.
Even with semi autonomous weapon systems such as drones, the distance and sterility of an assassination brings untold suffering to the victims of an attack, and eats away at the conscience and humanity of the perpetrator of the violence. The number of people injured or killed in drone attacks, and the extent of suffering is not fully known as wreckage from drone attacks is so great, bodies cannot be counted. Hear from former drone pilots:
Former Drone Pilots Denounce ‘Morally Outrageous’ Program | NBC News (2015)
Thankfully, developers of AI are putting enormous pressure on governments to ban the use of autonomous weapon systems. But given that these systems are so easy to develop and launch, a ban might be a moot point in an all-things-connected, data-on-steroids, AI-centric 5G world.
Our taxes fund the development of lethal autonomous weapon systems. Our cellphones and all our connected things and devices generate data that “feed” AI. We ourselves may be victims of an LAWS attack? Should we not have a say?
Further Resources on Autonomous Weapon Systems:
Lethal Autonomous Weapons
KARGU – Autonomous Tactical Multi-Rotor Attack UAV
THE QUESTION OF SWARMS CONTROL: CHALLENGES TO ENSURING HUMAN CONTROL OVER MILITARY SWARMS | EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Consortium
Meet the future weapon of mass destruction, the drone swarm
Stuart Russell and Zachary Kallenborn on Drone Swarms and the Riskiest Aspects of Lethal Autonomous Weapons
Former Drone Pilots Denounce ‘Morally Outrageous’ Program | NBC News (2015)
Defense Primer: U.S. Policy on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems | Congressional Research Services
Why We Should Ban Lethal Autonomous Weapons
Israel’s Drone Swarm Over Gaza Should Worry Everyone. It’s time global leaders set new rules for these future weapons already being used to kill
Spaceports, aka cosmodrome and launching pads are sites built for launching space vehicles into orbit. These complexes are expansive as they often house one or more launching sites, storage and production facilities, and runways. Rocket launching sites are most often built away from populated areas and near a body of water, so in the event of an explosion, human lives won’t be endangered. Wildlife is not factored in. This results in pristine areas in nature often being targeted for these complexes.
Communities that live on lands being converted to launching pads, are mounting massive campaigns to hold onto their land. Once a single launching site is established, it multiplies. Boca Chica, Texas, which started with one, is now up to six. Battles between satellite companies seeking permits to build, and rural communities and environmentalists opposing these new sites, are being reiterated around the globe. See,
Papuan Island in Indonesia being targeted by SpaceX
Rocket Lab in Mahia, New Zealand
Kodiak Island, Alaska, targeted jointly by the Israeli and the US Pentagon.
The A’Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland, Scotland, targeted by London based Orbex.
Further Resources on Spaceports:
List of rocket launch sites:
The nuclear industry views space as a new—and wide open—market for their toxic product that has run its dirty course on Mother Earth. – Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. http://13147359.sites.myregisteredsite.com/blog/report-urges-nuclear-rockets-lays-out-synergies-between-nasa-and-military/
Since the 1960s, space exploration has relied on liquid fueled propellent and solar to power vehicles to, from, and in space. As we stretch the limits of space exploration to farther planets and increase our presence in space, these energy sources no longer suffice due to insufficient speeds obtained from liquid fuels, extreme weather conditions, and extended lunar nights on other planets (e.g., no sunlight on Mars for two weeks at a time).
Despite the potential dangers from accidents, collisions, and leakage, radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) aka nuclear reactors powered by Plutonium-238 (a deadly chemical even in minute quantities) are increasingly being used for missions to distant parts of the solar system.
The US is planning to build a nuclear power plant on the moon by 2024 to supply electrical energy to support a human presence on the moon and beyond. This nuclear fission reactor will run on split uranium-235 atoms similar to power plants on Earth. Will it be used to enhance 5G capabilities and the militarization of space or “just” for exploration and mining?
Dual Use Technology refers to the use of a given technology and/or infrastructure for both civilian and military applications. For example, GPS was developed originally for the military but then adapted to commercial and consumer uses such as navigation and mapping.
Commercial 5G infrastructure and satellites will be used by the military to cut costs while adding to the streams of data available for AI on the “battlefield.” SpaceX, among other private companies, is teaming up with the military to provide dual use satellite connection for the military via its Starlink broadband internet program. The result is that customers who subscribe to Starlink’s internet service are unknowingly funding the weaponization of space, above and beyond taxpayer money used to fund war.
Dual Use Technology comes with built in ambiguity. A rocket or vehicle developed for one purpose, say, space travels or exploration, could double as a vehicle for surveillance or intelligence, or could even be used as a weapon. This confusion could lead to false assumptions about the actions and intentions of other nations, potentially igniting a cascade of retaliatory actions in space.
Satellites interfere with astronomical research in two distinct ways: 1) light pollution from satellites blocks optical astronomy imaging, and 2) satellite radio signals interfere with the far weaker and more subtle signals from space objects studied by radio astronomers.
According to a 2020 report by experts on the effects of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites on astronomy, “…large constellations of bright satellites in low Earth orbit will fundamentally change ground-based optical and infrared astronomy and could impact the appearance of the night sky for stargazers worldwide.”
The report listed six ways to mitigate harm to astronomical research, but the only option they identified that would eliminate any impacts was to launch fewer or no LEO satellites.
Even amateur astronomers and stargazers are affected by the constellations of LEO satellites. A loss felt deeply by many as the Heavens belong at once to no one and to all.
SpaceX tried making the satellites darker hoping to reduce the visual interference. But not only did that not solve the problem, but it added another issue, the satellites overheated.
There is already a problem to astronomers from a few thousand LEO satellites that have been launched since 2019. But astronomers fear it will only get worse with the planned launching of hundreds of thousands of satellites worldwide. Recall that 80 countries currently have satellite programs. And humans have a rather poor track record for showing restraint when exploring and deploying new technologies, especially ones that promise profits in the trillions.
Further Resources on Interference with Astronomy:
Losing the Sky | Astronomical Society of Edinburgh
Radio Frequency Interference | National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Astronomers Issue Report On The Effect Of ‘Satellite Constellations’ On Astronomy
Theodolite Thursday: Satellites Interfere With Astronomy
Chinese company seeks approval to launch nearly 13,000 satellites