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Global Solidarity

The Quest for Space: Entirely out of Public View

“People think space is infinite,” says Timieba Aganba, a space lawyer and part of the Outer Space Institute at the University of Arizona. The opposite is true, she explains: “the useful parts are a limited resource.” While crewed missions like the well-publicized billionaire launches draw the lion’s share of attention, the vast majority of rocket launches today are uncrewed missions transporting satellites into orbit. These launches are increasing at a staggering rate; roughly 4,500 active satellites that are currently in orbit may become as many as 100,000 within the next decade. The majority of these will circle in low earth orbit – an altitude of 2,000 kilometers or lower – as part of massive “mega-constellations” of communications satellites. Many of these will be visible to the naked eye, artificially brightening night skies. The Tesla project “Starlink” alone is currently launching up to 60 satellites at a time, several times a month. “We’re at a grab right now,” says Aganaba when describing the competition for orbits.

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