People & Power investigates the new satellite space race and its implications for the future.
Space may be infinite, but the Earth’s orbit is not. Since 2019, the number of satellites circling the planet has more than doubled. Companies like Elon Musk’s Starlink, OneWeb, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, and even entities as large as the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) have launched thousands of satellites in hopes of gaining an upper hand in the lucrative market of orbital space around the Earth.
The commercial possibilities of space offer the potential to empower the roughly three billion people who are currently without broadband internet and provide an invaluable tool for researchers. But there is potential peril embedded in the promise. Expanded internet access increases the surveillance capabilities of government and private entities. The military use of satellites has already resulted in sabre-rattling between world powers. Reflected light from satellites could change the way we see the stars in the night sky. And every new satellite increases the chance of a disastrous collision which could set off a chain of events that could render the Earth’s orbit unusable.