Astronomers have called for space to be given the same level of legal protection as land, sea and atmosphere, in order to protect its fragile environment. Low Earth orbit, the region a few hundred miles above the planet, is at risk from space debris and light-polluting objects to astronomers watching space of the earth.
According to a new study led by the University of Edinburgh, researchers have revealed that constellations of satellites, including SpaceX Starlink, which are all orbiting 300 miles above the Earth’s surface, are putting this precious ecosystem at risk.
They added that the installation of these huge groups of devices, some of which amount to tens of thousands of satellites, transmit broadband to Earth, which leads to space congestion, and rocket launches also pollute the atmosphere.
The research relates to a legal case before the US Court of Appeals, which will set an important precedent in the growing campaign to protect the space environment.
The team responsible for the study says that tackling these issues requires a holistic approach that treats orbital space as part of the environment and is worthy of protecting the environment, both nationally and internationally.
The Scottish team says policy makers must work collaboratively to create a common, ethical and sustainable approach to space, and the researchers are urging policy makers to consider the environmental impacts of all aspects of satellite constellations, including their launch, operation and de-orbiting.