The burning of end-of-life satellites and rocket fuel could create a new hole in the ozone layer and disrupt the global climate. In question: These thousands of satellites contain large amounts of aluminum.
already accusedor increase , satellites of the constellation Now suspected of causing “climate catastrophe”. Alert was started by Aaron Bole, astronomy and at the University of British Columbia, in a study published in , last May. The reason for his concern: Materials in satellites that can pollute When consumed during deorbitation. Starlink’s 12,000 satellites” Will cause the arrival of 2 tons of material per day in the Earth’s atmosphere. This is far less than the 54 tons of meteorites that come daily, but contain only 1% aluminium. », underlines the researcher.
A new hole in the ozone layer?
However, aluminum produces, or aluminum oxide, when . and previous studies have shown that fuel containing likely to be poor . « 1,000. emissions resulting from the launch of Suborbital can reduce ozone density in the highlands by 5-6% per year , which is equal to the effect of [les chlorofluorocarbones interdits par la en 2006, ndlr] », warns Martin , in the Journal of the Aerospace Corporation . Typically, satellites burn up in the upper layers of the atmosphere: between 50 and 90 km, or more Which extends from 10 to 60 km. ” But the particles will eventually sink to the lower layers. », confirms Gerhard Drolshagen from the University of Oldenburg in Germany, .
A giant experiment in uncontrolled geoengineering
And this isn’t the only climate catastrophe that is likely to happen to all of these satellites at the end of their lives. ” shows aluminaat certain wavelengths, and if you release enough of it into the atmosphere, you’ll change of planet », with a guard . Injection of alumina is also one of the means considered as part of’ except that here,” It is an experiment without any oversight or regulation […] We don’t know what the thresholds are and how it will affect the upper atmosphere », adds the researcher.
US telecommunications operator Viasat also cited concerns about the effects of aluminum oxide on the atmosphere during its request.SpaceX to postpone the launch of the mega-constellation Starlink until a proper environmental review of its potential impacts is completed. ” These changes can increase the risk of harm to health and the environment to unacceptable levels. » writes Viasat.
Spread of end-of-life satellites
« Humans are exceptionally good at underestimating their ability to disrupt the environmenthorrified, paradoxically, said Aaron. In two years, the number of active and dead satellites in the lower atmosphere has increased by more than 50%, to reach nearly 5,000 by March 30, 2021. SpaceX alone is on track to add 11,000 more and has already submitted an authorization request. with the FCC “. One possible solution would be to replace aluminum in rockets and satellites with another . But which one? Aluminum is very light and melts very well during atmospheric re-entry. Using stronger materials will increase the risk of debris falling to the ground. A real puzzle!