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Billboards in the sky

Photo By: Vlad Sitnikov

1-29-2019

Bella Lassiter, Contributing Writer

The Russian science company, StartRocket, has declared their mission to send small satellites into space that would project advertisements, something they call Orbital Displays, in the night sky for six minutes at a time. They believe this to be the future of advertising and hope to release these satellites into the sky by 2020.

Using Cubesats, small satellites with the ability to project images, StartRocket’s plan is to release them into the sky where they would remain, in a lower orbit of about 300 miles. There, they would display advertisements over the skies of towns and cities for the companies we hold so dear such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

According to Astronomy Magazine, “Each of these [satellites] will unfurl a sail made of Mylar—a type of plastic—measuring around 30 feet in diameter that reflects light from the Sun, essentially creating a single ‘pixel’.” Although it may sound odd at first, Russian scientists are confident in the plan. StartRocket’s CEO, Vladilen Sitnikov admitted that the it was a “crazy idea”, but he also expressed pride in it and its future success.

Business Insider reported Sitnikov saying, “The economy is the blood system of society. Entertainment and advertising are at its heart. We will live in space, and humankind will start delivering its culture to space.” The company stands strongly by this too. Not only do they want to project advertisements, but they hope that this progression will lead to other sorts of projections such as entertainment and government warnings, according to RocketStart’s website.

Although this sounds fascinating, there are some concerns with this idea. One major question that has been asked relates to aviation. Many are concerned that the satellites could put aviation safety at risk due to their location in the sky as they would obviously remain there all day, every day. Another concern is cost. How much is it going to cost a company to use one of these satellites to advertise for themselves?  The last major issue is damage. Do the satellites have the ability to cause harm to the atmosphere? Could they tamper with other scientists’ field research?

To the first two concerns, the company has provided no comment. However, they were quick to make it clear that they felt the satellites would not be as problematic as they were being made out to be.  According to ABC, they supported this claim with a reference to New Zealand scientists who, last year, released a disco ball into the sky. This action annoyed scientists but there was little uproar, and nothing seemed damaged when they did it. Reported by ABC, one member of StartRocket, Alexey Skorupsky, stated, "If you ask about advertising and entertainment in general—haters gonna hate.”

Universe Today says that the overall response to the idea is overwhelmingly negative. However, if this plan were to be approved, one major benefit is its ability to reach people. The company claims that the displays have the potential to reach seven billion people. There is no denying that this, in itself, is impressive.

Whether or not the idea comes to life is still to be known. However, it is clear that there are some positive as well as some likely negatives to such an idea, but it seems that only time will tell of what becomes of the night sky advertisements.