The new companies StarLink and OneWeb are building two constellations of thousands of satellites each. The goal is to provide internet access from space to virtually any place on the planet. Other companies also have plans for setting up ‘mega-constellations’ in orbits that are close to the Earth.
The huge increase in the number of satellites placed in orbit is having an unintended effect: an increase in the light pollution of the sky. Astronomers are concerned that a night sky filled up with shiny man-made objects could have a negative impact on their research and even change the relationship that we, humans, have with the cosmos.
Satellite constellations providing global internet coverage is a lawful and peaceful use of outer space, and so is ground-based astronomical observation of the sky. The aim is to achieve coordination in order that both activities can co-exist peacefully.
International Space Law can play a role in achieving that. Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty may apply to the described situation. The possible application of other existing international rules can also be explored. And if current regulation proves insufficient, then the elaboration of new legal rules addressing specifically this problem could also be considered.
Would you like to participate in this exciting and innovative research? Then join the new IISL Working Group on Light Pollution of the Night Sky, which was created during the last meeting of the Board of Directors. We are currently looking for volunteers. Please contact the coordinator of the Working Group, Prof. Rafael Moro-Aguilar, LL.M., at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.