If current plans for satellites are approved…

It’s going to be like an interstate highway in rush hour in a snowstorm with everyone driving much too fast….Except that there are multiple interstate highways crossing each other with no stoplights.

Jonathan McDowell, astrophysicist and astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. https://www.space.com/how-many-satellites-fit-safely-earth-orbit

In an effort to connect every “thing”, event, and place on the planet to the internet, and to transition the world to a new model of warfare, as of May 2023, there were 7560 operational satellites orbiting Earth, with the US leading the charge at 5184. According to the journal Science, as of October 2023, over 1,000,000 applications for satellites were filed.

Satellites are transported to space by rockets and set into orbit at varying distances from the Earth’s surface. Most often they use radiofrequency/microwave radiation to send transmissions to and from ground stations on Earth where the data is received, processed, and sent on according to its mission.

For personal satellite users, a small terminal known as a dish is stationed on their roof or near their home. There are also terminals that can be mounted on cars. The dish/terminal sends and receives transmissions directly to a satellite which then sends the communications on to an Earth base station to be processed. To communicate with one’s computer or other wireless device, the dish operates much like WiFi, transmitting through the airwaves into one’s home, saturating all who live there (and likely neighbors as well), with a hefty dose of wireless radiation.

Satellites are being developed that will interface directly with cellphones. For the moment these are primarily intended for emergency alert or short text messages, but companies are scaling up to make satellite-connected phones operate much like smart phones connected to earth-based infrastructure (cell towers).

Satellites range in size and weight, some being as large as a school bus. Small satellites, aka SmallSats, can be as large a kitchen refrigerator or as small (thus far) as a Femtosatellite, weighing .001-.01 kilograms. Miniature satellites known as CubeSats are a subset of SmallSats and are approximately the size of a Rubik’s cube. Due to lower cost, less mass, and ease of launch, smaller satellites have enabled more players to get into the act of propagating their wares in space. If the number of satellites planned indeed comes to fruition, space would be rendered unusable due to congestion and space debris.

Satellites are used for communications, imaging, weather-forecasting, smart cities, robotics, TV, banking, critical infrastructure such as electric or water grids, GPS, moon and space-mining, agriculture, and more. Armed forces around the world depend upon satellites for all their operations as well. Although satellites provide many benefits, it is imperative to consider the dangers they pose in order to more responsibly integrate them into the internet and telecommunications network, where moderation and balance are sadly in short supply.

Problems with satellites include space debris, depletion of the ozone layer; risk of devastating cyber attacks, pollution from rocket launches and from “dead” satellites burning up in the atmosphere, and collisions; plutonium and uranium spills from nuclear-powered satellites and space vehicles; increase in already harmful levels of electromagnetic radiation, compromise of the night sky, interference with both astronomical research and weather forecasting; effects on wildlife including navigation, yet more tracking, surveillance and erosion of privacy; vastly more energy consumption and the “promise” increase the lethality of war.

In addition to providing a redundant and complementary communications network for both the commercial and military sectors, satellites contribute mega data streams that feed artificial intelligence, and that have enabled the development of three new branches of the armed forces: cyber warfare, electromagnetic warfare, and info/cognitive warfare. Armed forces rely on satellites, an integral part of the electromagnetic spectrum infrastructure, and on AI for sensing, sense-making, weapon guidance, attack and assessment.

Satellites are also foundational in network interoperability between all branches of the military. In the US, this is referred to the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2). NATO countries refer to it as Multi-Domain Operations

Operators and governments market satellites as “bridging the digital divide”, however, wired technologies are safer, faster, more reliable, cyber secure, and energy efficient. Bridging the digital divide would be far more effectively done with wired connections leaving satellites to fill in on essential services if and where wired is absolutely unfeasible. E.g., a small number of dedicated satellites could be used to serve the remotest areas on the planet. Unfortunately, governments and industry ignore the advantages of wired technologies as they are more expensive to build. Possibly even more significant than cost in why industry and governments prioritize wireless infrastructure is that it provides granular and actionable data lending it a decided advantage over wired connections for surveillance, marketing, surveillance capitalism, and war – and a decided disadvantage for the rest of us in terms of autonomy and dignity.

Satellites can be placed at varying distances from Earth:
Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) – 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) – 160 to 2,000 km (99 to 1200 mi) above Earth
Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) – Below 400 km (250 mi) above Earth
Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) Orbits on an elliptical path with altitude varying from 1000 – 42,000 km (600 – 27,000 mi) above Earth.

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 – about 20 times the speed of a bullet. Due to the extraordinary velocity at which space debris travels, 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. This is known as the Kessler Effect. Some experts predict space debris could render the skies “unusable” for decades.

Regulations and cleanup efforts lag far behind growth in space junk. Companies are beginning to become motivated to clean up space, as tracking debris and avoiding collisions is an economic burden. It seems the preservation of Earth and space is a matter of economics, not care.

Satellites and their accompanying Earth and sea-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. Many systems on Earth – electricity, banking, water, sewage etc. – are increasingly (and not-so-wisely) wirelessly connected to the internet via satellites. A cyber-attack could potentially shut down an entire city for weeks or months at a time.

Nation states employ highly skilled cyber experts to maintain a secret and ever evolving landscape of vulnerabilities, and to patch their own when discovered.

Technology has taken center stage in the current theatre of global geopolitics. Whoever is superior in algorithms and AI will prevail in war. 5G, satellites, smart oceans, and other emerging technologies are changing the character of 21st century warfare. Advantage in war is now dependent on maintaining superiority in the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Advances in unmanned aerial, ground, and undersea vessels, data processing, robotics, algorithms, and networking enable greater precision, speed, and more lethal warfare.

Satellites have enabled the introduction of three new domains for war-fighting: Cyber warfare, electromagnetic warfare, and info/cognitive warfare. Essentially, warfare and “homeland security” have, to a great extent, migrated into cyber space. Electromagnetic Warfare (EW), as its name implies, militarizes the electromagnetic spectrum for both offense and defense. The arsenal of attack and defense vectors includes jamming and anti jamming, dazzling, spoofing, camouflaging, blocking the signal of a GEO satellite by means of a LEO satellite, mapping the electromagnetic signature of an enemy vessel, vehicle, or weapon for future identification and attack, mimicking an electromagnetic signature to transmit false communications, removing or “tugging” an enemy satellite from its orbit, to name just a few of the many electromagnetic feats happening above our heads.

Currently, there are no internationally agreed upon conventions, laws or treatises to govern hostile electromagnetic activities in space. With the exponential increase in vectors of attack and defense, the possibilities for cyber and electromagnetic warfare are also increasing exponentially. Add to this AI and machine learning which aggregate, sift through, make sense of, and find applications for vast amounts of data used in war. This confluence of developments does not bode well for Life. (Read more on technology in warfare at Technology and the Military.)

‘It was our heaven, our little piece of heaven that God gave us. And then, with SpaceX, everything changed.’

Celia Johnson — Hoping to stay in Boca Chica, Texas, her childhood haven.

Spaceports, aka cosmodrome or 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 of nature often being targeted for these complexes.

Many communities that live on lands being converted into 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, was up to six as of 2022. Battles between satellite companies seeking permits to build, and rural communities and environmentalists opposing these new sites, are happening around the globe. E.g., 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.

Boca Chica, Texas being targeted by SpaceX:
SpaceX Expansion Approval, Unexamined impacts June 2023
SpaceX Destroys Habitat Of Endangered Species, Defies Federal Approval Process

Satellites interfere with astronomical research in two ways: 1) light pollution from satellites blocks optical astronomy imaging, and 2) satellite radio signals interfere with the more subtle signals from natural 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.

SpaceX tried making the satellites darker hoping to reduce the visual interference. That didn’t solve the problem, but it did add another – the satellites overheated.

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.

Astronomers are already experiencing interference from the LEO satellites that have been launched since 2019, and they fear it will only get worse with the planned launching of tens of thousands of satellites worldwide.

Radiation emitted from 5G networks could interfere with and degrade weather forecasting according to meteorologists. Satellites used for weather prediction send radio frequency signals through water vapor. Weather patterns are predicted by analyzing the degree of attenuation of the signals. Meteorologic satellites operate at a frequency of 23.8 GHz. The wireless industry is planning to use frequencies that are close to those used by meteorologists and therefore run the risk of interfering with weather predictions.

One of the primary fears is that this interference will impede our ability to prepare for and defend against natural disasters.