S1 Ep 20: Satellite Constellations and Early Warning Systems

by | July 29, 2023, 11:29 PM | Podcast

While putting together this show, I often find myself thinking “Wow, this release is like that science fiction plot line” or “Oooo, this is new… I hope someone uses this in a story.”

Most of the time, when I think things like that, I’m reading about black holes, star formation, or planets of new and weirder layouts.

Sometimes, however, I read stories and think that has to do with tech, and maybe we don’t want to go in that direction. I can’t tell you if advances in AI are going to lead us to Cylons, or if climate change is going to destroy our civilization like it destroyed the civilization in that one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. What I can tell you is science fiction is how humanity explores the consequences of our behavior. These fictions can sometimes give us insights into possible futures we probably want to avoid.

And this includes the future shown in Wall-E.

Or at least some of the future shown in Wall-E. When our little robot friends depart the Earth, we see it is surrounded by an almost impenetrable shell of satellites and satellite pieces. When the movie came out in 2008, this seemed like a far-off possibility, but according to satellite cataloger Jonathan McDowell, there are now 18 satellite constellations, like Starlink, being planned. These constellations will contain 543,811 satellites. This is a whole lot of missions to try and keep from colliding and all it takes is one particularly bad collision to transform the more than half-million objects from useful technologies to a shield of shrapnel that protects our universe from us by trapping us here.

In our closer look today, we are going to look at early warning systems that are being developed, and how future – more highly mobile satellites, can both do good and create chaos.