Who is BlueWaler 3, this satellite brighter than a star?

This Saturday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 launched a somewhat special satellite into orbit: BlueWalker 3. A new nightmare for scientists.

SpaceX completed the 41st launch of the calendar year this weekend. The American company founded by Elon Musk in 2002 has launched a new swarm of satellites for its own Starlink constellation for the occasion.

35 satellites took off from Cape Canaveral this Saturday, only one of them not being part of the Starlink program. BlueWalker 3 is the creation of AST SpaceMobile, a company specializing, like SpaceX, in communications and Internet broadcasting from space.

A satellite too big to go unnoticed

With this large-scale prototype (1500 kilograms for 64 square meters), the company wants to demonstrate that Starlink-type constellations are not the only options for connecting the whole world to the internet.

Scott Wisniewski, head of operations and strategy for AST SpaceMobile, explains that this satellite must allow “to communicate with telephones, like a large antenna. The idea with this prototype is to “change nothing in the user experience. »

Placed in orbit, this satellite should be able to transmit the 3G and 4G networks to the whole world. An idea that appeals to many operators, the company has partnership contracts with 25 of them, including Vodafone, Orange, and T-Mobile.

A single satellite does not provide complete coverage of the planet, but a few weeks before the takeoff of Blue Walker 3, AST SpaceMobile received the green light from the FCC (the administration in charge of the regulation of communications) to test its service in Texas and Hawaii.

A pebble (of light) in the shoe

But the project has detractors. The size of half a volleyball court, the satellite does not go unnoticed, even from Earth. Several astrophysicists explain that it could cause discomfort in observations.

On his Twitter account, Eric Lagadec, an astrophysicist at the Côte d’Azur Observatory, explains that such a satellite “may, at times, be brighter than all the stars and planets in the sky”.

Scientists around the world fear that these satellites will interfere with their observations, in addition to spoiling the view of the general public. A race for an orbit that many denounce, but which does not seem to want to stop.

Kessler syndrome at the end of the tunnel?

A recent report from the Apollo Academic Surveys suggests that megaconstellations like Starlink may one day lead to Kessler syndrome. In short, these satellites are likely to be so numerous in orbit that we would find ourselves “blocked” on Earth, by a barrier of satellites and debris.

If this theory is still far from being a reality, the scientific world is alarmed by the possible chain reactions of the presence of so many objects in our sky. For his part, the industrialists do not seem to take the subject seriously, Elon Musk congratulates his teams on Twitter for what was one of the “most complicated missions” in the history of his company.


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