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Posted on May 7th, 2019

Reaching Orbit – Noppity Nope Nope

Welcome to the first installment of technology gone awry. These are new advancements that get a big NOPE of disapproval.

A company called StartRocket has big plans to launch a flock of cubesats with the sole purpose of floating advertisements in low earth orbit. You may be asking yourself if you just wandered into a cyberpunk science fiction novel. You haven’t. Not only is it real, PepsiCo is more than a little interested in this new mode of advertising in the night sky. The Russian branch of PepsiCo partnered with StartRocket on their initial test of the system using weather balloons. After the original story was published to an outraged readership at Futurism, PepsiCo moonwalked away from their first statement, stating they had no plans for future advertising with StartRocket—for now.

StartRocket is undeterred and are currently soliciting advertisers for their 2021 launch. The plan is to launch cubesats in a grid formation and then unfurl Mylar sails that reflect sunlight back to your eyeballs. Each cubesat has its own sail that will face the Earth to reflect light or turn to the side to create the negative space in the advertisement. The ideal time for reflection is early morning and early evening. Nothing like an advertisement with the sunrise and your morning cup of Joe.

This concept video shows off the future of space advertising. Super sweet, huh?

According to StartRocket’s website, there is nothing more beautiful than climbing up a bluff to gaze at a lighted skyline and watch advertisements track across the stars. Their website states, “Space has to be beautiful. With the best brands our sky will amaze us every night.” What’s more amazing then a lit advertisement? Certainly not our Moon or distant lights undergoing nuclear fusion in the starry sky. Give me a PepsiCo sign over the universe’s natural wonders any day.

Outside of the obvious repulsion of a billboard ruining a beautiful sunset, there are logistical concerns with this idea. The Kessler Syndrome is a very real and dangerous scenario that we are creeping toward. Once it starts, there is no stopping it. Adding useless space advertisements into low-earth orbit is tempting fate.

Check out this video that better describes the Kessler Syndrome and the long term consequences. (Credit: Asher Isbrucker)

In general, the lack of accountability on space junk is abominable. There is no incentive to clean trash out of orbit and most outmoded satellites don’t burn up in the atmosphere, instead they stay in low-earth orbit, turning into space debris. The Kessler Syndrome hypothesizes that once objects in low Earth orbit reaches a certain density they will collide with one another causing a cascade effect and more collisions will follow. This domino effect could make it impossible for satellites to operate in low Earth orbit. As human nature has shown time and time again, this won’t be taken seriously until it is too late.

If reading this is not immediately repulsive to you and you think it’s a grand idea, StartRocket will happily take $20,000 from you for eight hours of nighttime advertising. But for my part this is a big, fat noppity-nope-nope.

Katie Nelson
Geospatial Ninja
(303) 718-7163


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