The American company SpaceX sent a rocket carrying 143 satellites into space on Sunday, January 24, 2021. A record. But what will they be used for?
The rocket rises towards the sky, above a huge cloud of smoke. The scene takes place this Sunday, January 24, 2021 in Cape Canaveral, in the southeastern United States. The American company SpaceX has just sent a (new) machine into space.
This Falcon 9 rocket carries 143 different satellites, a figure never seen before. All are small, relatively small objects, sometimes referred to as smallsats : they weigh less than 180 kg and are as big as a refrigerator, for the most imposing, underlines the Nasa, the US space agency. But what will these satellites, which have all been put into orbit, be used for?
Imaging, telecommunications …
On board the rocket, there were ten satellites launched by the company itself. They are part of a large project called Starlink. The idea? Orbit thousands of satellites to provide high speed internet connection anywhere on Earth. Much controversy surrounds this project. First there are fears about the space pollution, in other words, the debris from previous machines that revolve around the Earth. That’s not all. These satellites leave behind small light trails, visible from our planet. This greatly complicates the night observation of stars, but also the work of astronomers, as several researchers have pointed out.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 24, 2021
These are not the only machines launched on Sunday. The rocket also carried satellites launched by its customers, for which it acts as a carrier. Among these, there were 36 satellites of the American company Planet Labs, as SpaceX reports on his website. It specializes in imagery: every day, its satellites photograph the Earth, capturing high-resolution images. The idea is to have the most precise photographs possible, and to observe the changes that take place every day on our planet.
Its clients are companies in the agriculture and energy sectors, but also governments, underlines the company on his site.
The “constellations” of satellites
The rocket also carried 17 satellites launched by the Canadian start-up Kepler. The company is also evolving in the telecommunications sector, and uses these machines in orbit to provide a better Internet connection to connected objects or to allow faster transfer of data, in particular. This is what the site specializing in news of new technologies emphasizes. TechCrunch .
The Nasa also launched three small satellites, as part of an in-orbit communications and navigation research mission.
Several of the companies which launched satellites Sunday want to set up “constellations” of satellites, in other words put in orbit myriads of machines. The trend should not fix the problems of space or light pollution, and even less space congestion.
Already in September 2019, the European Space Agency had to change the trajectory of one of its satellites… To avoid a collision with another machine, launched by SpaceX and part of the Starlink project.