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.
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 also generate yet more debris as a result of the collision. This is known as the Kessler Effect and may 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 more 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 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:
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, and 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 would run on split uranium-235 atoms similar to power plants on Earth. Would it be used to enhance 5G capabilities and the militarization of space or “just” for exploration and mining?
Chinese company seeks approval to launch nearly 13,000 satellites
Losing the Sky
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.