Radio Astronomers Not Happy About Constellations of LEO Satellites

Space Daily has some details:

Today, radio astronomy faces a new front of enormous satellite constellations, the big three being: SpaceX’s Starlink, OneWeb, and IridiumNEXT. The SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation aims to launch around 12,000 satellites to serve the purpose of a space-based Internet system. The OneWeb constellation’s end plan is to have almost 3,000 satellites in orbit to also serve the purpose of an Internet service. Iridium NEXT, like the original constellation, is a telecommunications satellite constellation consisting of 66 satellites. Of the three, Starlink obviously grabs the most attention and instills the most fear for obvious reasons. Harvey Liszt, astronomer and spectrum manager for the NRAO, reached out to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in February 2018 to express concern over SpaceX’s constellation.

“SpaceX, which plans to use the 10.7 – 12.7 GHz band for its downlink, has not yet fulfilled its obligations under US131. Coordination between SpaceX and the AUI observatories (together with NSF) trailed off inconclusively around the middle of 2017 after a tentative and rather preliminary treatment of radio astronomy’s concerns and the manner in which SpaceX planned to address them.”

Continue reading HERE.

As a former Amateur Radio Astronomer and visitor to radio astronomy observatories across the nation, I understand the magnitude of the problem.  I have visited the Green Bank Radio Observatory several times, and the Very Large Array was an excellent experience.

Very_Large_Array,_2012

We drove up to the VLR about three in the afternoon, and as we stood outside our vehicle, all the antenna is the array started to move, sweeping across the sky toward the sun. The sun is sometimes used by an astronomer to calibrate receivers, we have no idea if this was the case this time. We drove on to the central facility, and the doors were all lock, but we found some stairs and platform that let us look in windows of the observer station. It was vacant, no observers at the controls.  It was spooky watch the antenna move and knowing the control room was empty, no humans present. The VLA is monitored and controlled remotely.

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