Today I learned about the expected TTL of Starlink satellites, which is roughly five to seven years, according to Wikipedia. In order to operate properly the network is expected to be made of more than 40 000 satellites, which, once their TTL is up, are supposed to be pushed down into the earth atmosphere and burst into fire. That means in 20 years, one can expect between 120 000 and 200 000 high tech satellites that were made of rare materials, that like involved child labour to extract, and are burned to nothing, making it impossible to recycle any of the material, just because it is “too expensive” deploy fibre optics to more places, that are rather cheap to produce, easy to repair and reasonable to recycle to some degree.
I came across this after listening to a Linus Tech Tips video about Starlink talking about Starlink. And while I also see how impressive this technology is, I have a hard time to accept that we trash this amount of resources on a problem that is solvable not just technically, but also environmentally friendlier. I can understand, that fibre can’t go everywhere, but we already have technologies to bridge those gabs as well, and even if satellite internet might be this technology for a few areas, it shouldn’t take 40 000 satellites to achieve this.
And all this discussion ignores the potential impacts on scientific research that comes with orbital garbage for those satellites that don’t make it into the atmosphere.