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On-air marketing may seem like a bad idea, but it is history. It is also gaining popularity as the cost of air travel goes down. But the consequences, such as damage to light and atmospheric waste, may not be significant.

In August, the Canadian company Geometric Energy Corporation (GEC) announced its intention to launch a satellite-based satellite imagery on the SpaceX rocket. The story immediately spread, and SpaceX and GEC were criticized.

In 2019, Russian businessman Vlad Sitnikov faced the same dilemma. “I’m an advertiser,” Sitnikov told Al Jazeera. “That’s why I thought it would be great to see a new kind of journal in the air.”

Sitnikov had already started his own advertising company, and now he wanted to do something with the airwaves. So he turned to friends in the aviation industry, and later the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, a private university located in Moscow. They decided to deploy a small group of satellites, all of which were equipped with display screens, which together could serve as a visual display on the world stage.

He created the iconic images, which showed Coca Cola ads appearing in the sky. This is when the criticism began to intensify, saying that the idea was offensive, and could lead to things like light pollution.

“The pictures have been posted everywhere,” he said. “I was devastated. I decided to quit my job because people around the world hated me. ” Its debut, StartRocket, has been a limbo ever since.

Great hatred broke my heart

Vlad Sitnikov, founder, StartRocket

What GEC and Sitnikov have to offer is a recent example of an aviation industry, an idea whose history goes back many years. In the 90s, the Russian space program, for example, had a strong connection with nations. In 1996, they were paid $ 5m for floating a Pepsi can outside Mir’s air station, and Pizza Hut paid them $ 1m in 2000 to print their logo on their single rocket.

Not in my low traffic

With more available space, as well as cheaper access, the idea of ​​using advertising space or entertainment has become increasingly popular. In addition to the GEC and StartRocket projects, Japanese ALE developers want to use satellites that drop small balls to make shooting stars if needed – an idea that raised $ 50m. In 2019, the original RocketLab also launched a ball-like disco, called Humanity Star, as an advertising attraction.

“You could be the next big thing,” Sitnikov said. “Once we established our concept, we immediately created customers who want to pay. People want to pay for advertising. “

People want to pay for real estate

Vlad Sitnikov, founder, StartRocket

One major objection to this idea is that it will contribute to the pollution of light from the atmosphere, a problem that is growing even without advertising along the way.

“Until recently most of our work was to destroy light from the ground,” said Jeffrey Hall, director of the Lowell Observatory, and chairman of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on Light Pollution, Radio Interference, and Space Debris. “The issue of light pollution from the atmosphere is a new phase for us, and it only started in 2019 with the launch of the SpaceX Starlink satellites,” he told Al Jazeera.

Larger, more so-called “star clusters” of small, slow-flying satellites have been expanding in recent years. For example, SpaceX Starlink seeks to establish thousands of satellites to be able to connect to the world.

The issue of pollution from the atmosphere is a new aspect for us

Jeffrey Hall, Director, Lowell Observatory

However, for astronomers to see a celestial body, they would need a much darker sky. Yet outdoor bright lights, or satellites that emit or illuminate, such as the Starlink constellation, can be detrimental to their performance. And Hall fears that airspace could exacerbate the problem.

“Satellites leave bright lines on images,” he said. “The lines can fill pixels in the image, and completely destroy it.”

According to Sitnikov, this would not be difficult. In his mind, the sign only appears for six minutes at a time.

But even though this can be difficult, Hall said. “Six minutes is not the end of celestial bodies. But it is the beginning of something that may be common. It is another celestial phenomenon that affects the gaze.

Opponents of air pollution claim that it can cause atmospheric pollution. The more things we run along the way, the harder it is to collide and create a shift that fills the earth’s crust with debris debris, making it difficult to orbit the atmosphere.

“Things are moving fast so it makes sense to slow down until we understand what we are doing,” Hall said.

Astronomy Laws

It is possible that celestial laws have banned satellite signals. Space is followed by the 1966 Outer Space Treaty, which recognizes space as a global phenomenon.

“There is no guarantee in this agreement about space marketing,” said well-known professor Joanne Gabrynowicz, director of the International Institute of Space Law. But Article 9 requires non-signatories to adhere to the ‘appropriate’ preferences of other signatories’ and to avoid ‘negative interference’ of international celestial events, “he told Al Jazeera.

Satellite signals that prevent astronomers from observing the sky can occur. On top of that, the US enacted a national law in the 1990s banning air advertising that could be considered “disruptive”.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a crew of about 60 satellites of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network will depart from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida in April this year. [File: John Raoux/AP]

Naturally, the StarXink StarXink star was illuminated and approved by US officials, even though it has a celestial body. International law also applies to the way treaties are used on a national level. For example, the Russian government has to decide whether to recognize the start of Russian trade in line with the Outer Space Treaty. However, there is legal debate to ban space advertising if it could lead to excessive light pollution.

All this leaves Sitnikov unstable. His idea may be a pause, but now he is looking forward to returning to space. He recently combined StartRocket events with those that resumed in Russia. This time they do not want to set up a sign, but small satellites that can send messages around the world with a laser.

“You can use your phone’s camera to read more about lasers,” Sitnikov said. “Independent publications in countries like Iran, Russia or North Korea can be used.”

It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. What seems to be the case is that as the price of space goes down, space plans are up.

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