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SpaceX (general discussion)

sferrin

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A trio of astronomers have called for legal action against the FCC and SpaceX, whose StarLink project, a mega constellation of highly visible communication satellites, has drawn significant ire from astronomers around the globe.
And yet it'll be SpaceX that makes it so that astronomers can build as many telescopes as they want out in space where the seeing is perfect. These astronomers should be helping SpaceX so they can finally start building observatories on Farside.
That’s not an equivalent. Anyway what about all the amateur astronomers on the ground, should they be denied the night skies. In my view the night skies are everyone’s right, bad enough we ruin them with light pollution but now this as well.
They're not denied. They can still look.

If you want to talk about "rights"? What about my right to keep my money? What about my right to drive without idiots on the road? What about my right to look at the internet without ads? What about my right not to receive spam and junk mail? What about my right to food without having to pay for it? What about my right to not have to deal with dumb people? What about my right not to bombarded by reality shows when I watch TV? Etc., etc. etc.
All of the above are false equivalents as the sky is a free natural resource. Nothing you’ve listed there is an equivalent to that.
Apparently it's a free natural resource that 0.0000001% of the population thinks they get to dictate how it's used. (I'm referring to astronomers here, not evil corporate billionaires.)
 

Orionblamblam

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(They also unexpectedly proved more expensive to maintain, wiping out any projected cost savings in procurement [which proved to be a mirage anyway] and power usage.) The law of unintended consequences in action.
Another issue with LEDs has been that since they are more energy efficient that sodium vapor and the like, rather than reducing light pollution they often increase it... because it's theoretically cheap to add *more* light.

Energy-Efficient LEDs are Escalating Light Pollution

If amateur astronomers want to clean up the night skies, they're going to have to persuade humans to not only reverse technology but reduce their standards of living. I hear the night skies are quite dark in North Korea.
 

Arjen

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The Astronomers' Appeal:

Document spelling out the concerns of three Italian astronomers Stefano Gallozzi, Marco Scardia, Michele Maris:
Concerns about ground based astronomical observations:A step to Safeguard the Astronomical Sky - https://arxiv.org/pdf/2001.10952.pdf
Ground based radio astronomy threatened:
4.2 Impacts on ground based radio-astronomy
Even with best coating and mitigation procedures to decrease the impacto on visual astronomical observations, what it is often omitted or forgotten is that telecommunication constellations will shine in the radio wave lengths bands, observable from the ground.The scientific needs of radio astronomers and other users of the passive services for the allocation of frequencies were first stated at the World Administrative Radio Conference held in 1959 (WARC-59). At that time, the general pattern of a frequency-allocation scheme was:

1. that the science of radio astronomy shouldbe recognized as a service in the Radio Regulations of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU);
2. that a series of bands of frequencies should be set aside internationally for radio astronomy
3. that special international protection should be afforded to thehydrogenline(1400-1427 MHz), the hydroxyl(OH) lines(1645-1675 MHz), and to the predicted deuterium line(322-329MHz)...

Since 1959 a large number of spectral lines from a wide variety of atoms and molecules in space have been discovered, then the frequency range of radio astronomy now extends to at least 500 GHz. In particular frequencies of the CO molecule (at 115, 230, and 345 GHz), isotopes (at 110, 220, and 330 GHz) and the maser of H2O at 22,235GHz [29], are critical to many aspects of astronomy, see also [21]. Radio astronomers have been engaged for decades in the work of the United Nations Agency ITU to regulate the international use ofthe radio frequency spectrum. Their efforts ensured a limited number of narrow bands of the spectrum received protection to allow radio astronomy to develop and conduct essential and unique research. Despite the special international protection for Radio-astronomy, some sources of radiofrequency interference (RFI) are inescapable. While radio astronomers can minimize the effects of many terrestrial sources by placing their telescopes at remote sites, none can escape from RFI generated by satellite transmitters, such as those of the Iridium System, SpaceX, and others. Whilst there is legislation in place where radio observatories are placed (e.g. at the two SKAsites in Australia and South Africa) to protect the telescopes from ground-based radio interference at those frequencies, the use of air and space-borne radio communications is regulated on a collaborative international basis. What is not widely acknowledged is that the development of the latest generation telecommunication networks (both from space and from Earth) already has a profound impact on radio-astronomical observations (at all sub-bands): with LEO satellite fleets it is quite sure that the situation could become unbearable. In particular, low Earth orbit satellite’s spectral windows identified to communicate with earth stations in the Ku (12-18GHz), Ka (27-40GHz) and V (40-75GHz) bands will over-lap with the nominal radio-astronomy bandsand so will interfere with ground radio tele-scopes and radio interferometers, making the radio detectors enter in a non-linear regime in the K band (18-26.5GHz) and in Q band (33-50GHz). This fact will irreparably compromise the whole chain of analysis in those bands with repercussions on our understanding of the Universe, or even, making the astrophysics community blind to these spectral windows from the ground, see Fig 6. There are different projects in development for ground based radio-astronomy that will significantly overlap with telecommunication signals coming from the satellites’ constellations in orbit:
•TheNext Generation Very Large Ar-ray, ngVLAandngVLA Long Base-line Array, LBA[18]: located in NewMexico, west Texas, Arizona, and north-ern Mexico. The VLA will use 6 radio-bands: 2,4GHz, 8GHz, 16GHz, 27GHz,41GHz and 93GHz.

•TheSquare Kilometer Array, SKA[19], [23] will interfere with Ku satellitescommunication bands.
•TheAtacama Large Millimeter Ar-ray, ALMA[22], the world-leading mm and sub-mm observatory built in Atacama, Chile, with enormous expenses spent by a broad international community,facility that has brought us many significant discoveries and played a crucial role in the global system of EHT (first image of BH ever, published in April 2019), has its Bands 1, and 2+3 exactly in the potentially polluted part of the spectrum.

To aggravate the matter, with the current technological development, the planned density of radio frequency transmitters is impossible to envisage. In addition to millions of new commercial wireless hot spot base stations on Earth directly connected to the about 50,000 newsatellites in space, will produce at least 200 billion of new transmitting objects, according to estimates, as part of the Internet of Things(IoT) by 2020-2022, and one trillion of objects a few years later.Such a large number of radio-emitting objects could make radio astronomy from ground stations impossible without a real protection made by countries’ safe zones where radio astronomyfacilities are placed. We wish to avoid that technological development without serious control turns radio astronomy practice into an ancient extinct science.
Legal matters:
SpaceX private company has received permission from many USA government agencies (e.g.Federal Communication Commission, FCC) to launch these satellites into orbit. So there could be a legal claim, within the US legal system, to halt the progress of Starlink.Also, as it turns out, according to the OuterSpace Treaty and its progeny, there are no private companies operating in outer space, but only governments can operate in outer space. And the legal process is that the state government, this time the USA government, is legally responsible for all objects sent into outer space that launch from USA borders. That means, that it is the USA government that is responsible for the harm caused by its corporation, Starlink, sending objects into orbit that cause harm. So under this international law, any country that suffers harm by Starlink can sue the United States government in the International Court of Justice in the Hague. The harm here is damage to our cultural heritage, the nightsky, and monetary damages due to the loss of radio and other types of astronomy. For the scientists, the owners of the observatories have a legal argument that they have and will continue to lose money spent for their research based on Earth based observatories. Furthermore, Universities that own the observatories are state owned universities, so it is the government that owns the observatories that have lost financially because of their interruption of study of the night skies. So it is essential that a government, like Chile, Italy or France, sues the USA in the International Court of Justice. If no national or international entity will stop this displacement the right of the private company SpaceX will become acquired at the beginning of March 2020. How should the international astronomicalcommunity mobilize in order to stop further Starlink launches?
1. Sue in court for luminous pollution not taken into account by US FCC: The FCC’s lack of review of these commercial satellite projects violates the National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, which obligates all federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of any projects they approve. So in the most basic sense, SpaceX’s satellites displacement authorization would be unlawful, see [31].
2. Sue in court for lack of jurisdiction and jurisprudence of US FCC to authorize private not geostationary satellites over other states and nations.
3. Sue in the International Court of Justice, ICJ the USA government to put on hold further Starlink launches to quantify the loss of public finances in damaging national and international astronomical projects.

[31] Ramon J. Ryan, Note, The Fault In Our Stars: Challenging the FCC’s Treatmentof Commercial Satellites as Categorically Excluded From Review Under the National Environmental Policy Act, 22 VAND. J. ENT. &TECH. L. (forthcoming May 2020)
Statement from the International Astronomic Union: https://www.iau.org/news/announcements/detail/ann19035/?lang
The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 13,500 professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide.

Space-based telescopes are difficult/nigh impossible to upgrade, have a limited life span and there aren't a lot of them around. The most advanced astronomical sensors sit in ground-based observatories - there is constant development there.
If you don't care about scientific progress: astronomers are the people who could provide early warning of a dinosaur-killer. Until somebody takes away their toys.
 
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fredymac

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Space-based telescopes are difficult/nigh impossible to upgrade, have a limited life span and there aren't a lot of them around. The most advanced astronomical sensors sit in ground-based observatories - there is constant development there.
If you don't care about scientific progress: astronomers are the people who could provide early warning of a dinosaur-killer. Until somebody takes away their toys.

Spacex is making your first comment obsolete.

I view Spacex as more representative of scientific progress than your ground based observatories. It will have significantly more impact to society in terms of economic benefits.

I believe all civilization ending asteroids have been catalogued. City busting asteroids aren't still fully mapped out and the one most likely to hit will come from the direction of the sun. A telescope at L4 or L5 would be in a better position to watch for this.

The one telescope I would really like to see is something along the lines of the planet hunting telescope spanning miles in effective aperture. Made up of smaller telescopes all kept in position by laser interferometric distance sensors, this kind of thing will be economically feasible given the launch prices Spacex hopes to achieve. The results will let you actually look at exo planets the way we can look at Mars with Hubble.
 

Orionblamblam

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Space-based telescopes are difficult/nigh impossible to upgrade, have a limited life span and there aren't a lot of them around.

GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE! Times they are a changing, and space-based telescopes, so long as companies like SpaceX are allowed to flourish, will become vastly cheaper to the point that in historically short order astronomers will look back on the era of ground-based scopes in much the same way they look back on the era of using *film* for astrophotography.
 

Arjen

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The astronomers appear to be less than enthusiastic. As they are to use whatever is foisted upon them, I think they should be heard.
 
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fredymac

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If the astronomers want to gain some credibility with folks like me they will also need to file suit in countries like China. Unless there is some scientific reason why only US LEO constellations cause problems. I seem to recall that city lights outside of the West did not switch to yellow Sodium lamps due to concerns for "light pollution".
 

Arjen

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Sorry, can't resist. The international facility in the Atacama desert earned its location in Chile because places like the DPRK were unacceptable to its donors for, amongst others, human rights considerations. A lot of money was and is being spent on it. Money wasted if the skies are filled with highly reflective radio transmitters. As always in life - you make your choices, we all live with the consequences.
 
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Dilandu

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If you don't care about scientific progress: astronomers are the people who could provide early warning of a dinosaur-killer. Until somebody takes away their toys.
Without asteroid-deflecting options, which could only emerge with the advance of high-capable launch capabilities - which, essentially, required that there must be a large market for orbiting things - the ability to detect is not much useful.

And frankly, I have more faith in dedicated array of asteroid-searching satellites, that in a chance that scientific observatories may accidentally stumble upon one in time.
 

Flyaway

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(They also unexpectedly proved more expensive to maintain, wiping out any projected cost savings in procurement [which proved to be a mirage anyway] and power usage.) The law of unintended consequences in action.
Another issue with LEDs has been that since they are more energy efficient that sodium vapor and the like, rather than reducing light pollution they often increase it... because it's theoretically cheap to add *more* light.

Energy-Efficient LEDs are Escalating Light Pollution

If amateur astronomers want to clean up the night skies, they're going to have to persuade humans to not only reverse technology but reduce their standards of living. I hear the night skies are quite dark in North Korea.
It’s quite telling that the only arguments people are putting up against the astronomers here are either false equivalents or wild exaggerations like this. Makes me think that perhaps they don’t actually have a credible argument.
 

Flyaway

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Some places do a better job of making sure the amateur astronomers have nice dark skies.



Now, can we *please* get back to the subject of SpaceX?
Are you incapable of posting here in this topic without just posting arrant nonsense like this. If you can’t then don’t post at all.
 

fredymac

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How is a real picture or the real situation in North Korea "arrant nonsense". How is making a case for all voices being heard rather than placing astronomers on a pedestal a "nonsensical statement".

Indeed Spacex is not a religion. Just a company trying to earn a living and sometimes they can use a little help.
 

Arjen

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I don't remember putting astronomers on a pedestal. I have noticed astronomers all over the world getting worked up about new 'constellations' appearing in LEO. Seeing what astronomy/astrophysics is contributing to our understanding of the universe, I thought it worthwhile to find out what it is that has them worried. Now I am worried.
 
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merriman

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I don't remember putting astronomers on a pedestal. I have noticed astronomers all over the world getting worked up about new 'constellations' appearing in LEO. Seeing what astronomy/astrophysics is contributing to our understanding of the universe, I thought it worthwhile to find out what it is that has them worried. Now I am worried.
You're on! Just what has our 'understanding of the universe' done for us in our efforts to improve our collective life styles? You confuse curiosity with raw necessity. One is intelectual masterbation. The other gets us fed and comfortable. What has astronomy done for me lately?
 

Orionblamblam

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It’s quite telling that the only arguments people are putting up against the astronomers here are either false equivalents or wild exaggerations like this. Makes me think that perhaps they don’t actually have a credible argument.
The fact that you choose to not understand the argument does not mean an argument is not being made. Nor does it mean that it's not a *good* argument. It's simply that you're choosing to not understand.

I will try one more time: the irritation of astronomers over a *slight* diminuation of their seeing potential is going to be a historically brief blip, so long as SpaceX and similar groups are allowed to do their thing. The ability to economically access and exploit not just LEO but the entire solar system *vastly* outweighs the ability of amateurs to take pretty pictures of the sky.
 

galgot

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I don't remember putting astronomers on a pedestal. I have noticed astronomers all over the world getting worked up about new 'constellations' appearing in LEO. Seeing what astronomy/astrophysics is contributing to our understanding of the universe, I thought it worthwhile to find out what it is that has them worried. Now I am worried.
You're on! Just what has our 'understanding of the universe' done for us in our efforts to improve our collective life styles? You confuse curiosity with raw necessity. One is intelectual masterbation. The other gets us fed and comfortable. What has astronomy done for me lately?
Well I think that originally, without Astronomers (was Galileo an amateur or a professional BTW ? ), we wouldn’t know a lot about how our planet, the stars , moons ect, moves and all that… For exp. without basic 'understanding of the universe' (astronomy) , would Christopher Columbus have reached America ?
Would we know how to navigate using stars ?
Would we even know about gravity ? And thus would we have GPS satellites and other stuff ? mmmmh ?
Would SpaceX even know that it *can* put satellites out there ? Would SpaceX even exist...
So yes Astronomy ('understanding of the universe') has done a lot for me AND SpaceX lately, thanks :)

I'm sure SpaceX will do whatever it can to solve the problem, if the are clever enough (they are). Don't think it can be stopped anyway, cause 'understanding of the universe' AND use/exploration of space that SpaceX does, goes together.
 
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fredymac

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I don't remember putting astronomers on a pedestal. I have noticed astronomers all over the world getting worked up about new 'constellations' appearing in LEO. Seeing what astronomy/astrophysics is contributing to our understanding of the universe, I thought it worthwhile to find out what it is that has them worried. Now I am worried.

You express their concerns without any context of any competing interests. It is OK to advocate for them. It is also OK to resist their claims. As I said, let this issue be aired out with all sides making inputs and evaluating the pros/cons.

As I said earlier, we live in an age where true mass access to space may finally be at hand. If it happens, astronomy on Earth may be relegated to the back seat but more than offset by opportunities in space.
 

Arjen

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I thought the competing argument had been amply put forward - context.
 

Orionblamblam

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As I said earlier, we live in an age where true mass access to space may finally be at hand. If it happens, astronomy on Earth may be relegated to the back seat but more than offset by opportunities in space.
"Professional" astronomy will benefit in ways far too numerous and powerful to begin to comprehend once true space access is achieved. "Amateur" astronomy will very likely *also* benefit, even for those stuck on Earth with no orbital scopes of their own. Why? because looking at the Orion nebula is cool and all... but imagine training your backyard scope *also* on SPS #14 or Island Twelve in GEO. Lake Armstrong near New Berlin on the moon. The superconducting cables used to drain the Van Allen belts. The orbital shipyards at 600, 1000 and 1500 miles.

Yes, there'll be a brief period when some people are annoyed at the brief and predictable appearance of numerous satellites. But that time will pass. Allowing that brief period of meaningless annoyance to hold up or even halt the progress of mankind is not just short sighted it's... well, fill in the blank.
 

Arjen

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See? I don't go complaining about OBB providing context
 

Orionblamblam

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People do know Space X is a company not a religion that needs your uncritical faith?
I doubt there are many people viewing SpaceX as a religion. What SpaceX *is* doing is leading the way to opening up space via low cost launch while also directly pushing for space colonization and the infrastructure to pull it off. Right now they're basically the only game in town. But hopefully soon, Lockheed and Boeing will pull their thumbs out, toss the suits, put the engineers back in charge, and take their place doing it. Virgin will do it. Blue Origin will do it. NorGrum will do it. British Aerospace will break up and Hawker and Saro and whatnot will go at it, charging in to the heavens while singing "Rule Britannia" at top volume and waving the Union Jack. Russians, Indians, Chinese will go at it. The more the friggen' merrier.

If Billy Joe-Bob's Rockets and Whatnot, Inc, were to start doing this sort of thing with a series of launch vehicles that on the surface seem monumentally stupid and wrong and yet work cheaply and reliably, they'd get my support too. SpaceX isn't the goal here... they are simply a means to an end.
 

Arjen

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In some future there might be thousands of astronomical satellites circling the earth. Such a future has not arrived yet, in the meantime the current very real plan of launching tens of thousands of reflective radio transmitters could largely blind ground based astronomy. Astronomers would lose their observatories and have to wait - how long ? - to pick up their work again?
I don't think SpaceX's operations need be intrinsically inimical to ground based astronomy, but its constellation plans definitely are.
 
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Orionblamblam

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Astronomers would lose their observaties and have to wait - how long ? - to pick up their work again?
You tell me. How long for astronomers to get on the business of building radio scopes for orbit or farside?

Think of it this way. For whatever reason, ground based radio telescopes will stop working altogether in X years. You now have no choice but to pull up stakes and move to LEO, GEO, lunar surface. How long will it take you to get it done assuming that space launch and transportation are no longer problems? If lunar manufacturing infrastructure is in the early stages of cranking out kilotons of structural aluminum?

If your answer is "it can't be done in a reasonable timeframe," then you have nothing to contribute because you're wrong. If your answer is "under emergency circumstances we could get it done lickety-damn-split," then, congrats! You've now given yourself no excuse why you can't get it done lickety-damn-split *now.*

I don't think SpaceX's operations need be intrinsically inimical to ground based astronomy, but its constellation plans definitely are.
And what about the Chinese, Indians, Russians, Japanese, everyone else planning on filling the skies with stuff? What about those dastardly Canucks with their plans of covering the heavens with tungsten-foil maple leaves as part of their devious scheme to take over the world?

Worst case the radio astronomers aren't going to be blinded by Starlink. Inconvenienced, possibly, but hardly shut down. And if you want optical or IR scopes for asteroid watching... you want thousands of them *off* the Earth. Scattered far and wide, above and below the plane of the ecliptic, automated eyeballs looking everywhere from every vantage point to see every glittering or glowing object within 50 AU of earth. You're not going to get that done until space launch is *cheap.* And space launch isn't going to get cheap until space launch is *common.*
 

fredymac

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See? I don't go complaining about OBB providing context

Indeed. He is forthrightly making a case for Spacex and not pretending to take no sides.

Given all of the existing radio emitting satellites already in orbit (not just communication but navigation and others), radio telescopes are already affected (and don't forget airplanes and terrestrial broadcasting, etc). I assume all these satellites transmit at specific frequencies and probably have wavebands designated for their use. Radio astronomy is going to find specific wavelengths too noisy as LEO constellations develop. And then of course the atmosphere itself blocks certain portions of the radio spectrum. The decision on who gets what parts of the waveband should be decided based on the benefits derived. For everyone.


Atmospheric  Transmission.png
 

jeffb

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Thing is, you're arguing that Musk's starlink is a good and necessary advance that should be allowed to go ahead over all complaints even though there are other, ultimately better technologies, many that already exist, that can provide the same capability or better.

You're saying that astronomers (who were here first) should step aside and wait until Musk has enough spare launch capacity to replace the capability he is wrecking now with new wonder telescopes in orbit (which Musk will no doubt supply for free) at some nebulous point 'in the future'.

Why doesn't that same condition exist for Musk and StarLink? Why shouldn't Musk wait until a better solution presents itself? A solution that isn't as ugly as turning the Moon into a billboard?
 

sferrin

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Thing is, you're arguing that Musk's starlink is a good and necessary advance that should be allowed to go ahead over all complaints even though there are other, ultimately better technologies, many that already exist, that can provide the same capability or better.
If that were the case they'd already be doing it and these multi-thousand sat constellations would not be viable. As for who was there first that matters not at all.
 

Dragon029

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Thing is, you're arguing that Musk's starlink is a good and necessary advance that should be allowed to go ahead over all complaints even though there are other, ultimately better technologies, many that already exist, that can provide the same capability or better.
Like what? It's also not just about Starlink providing internet, it's about Starlink becoming a source of funding that's arguably necessary for SpaceX to achieve things like ISRU and launch infrastructure on Mars within our lifetimes.
You're saying that astronomers (who were here first) should step aside and wait until Musk has enough spare launch capacity to replace the capability he is wrecking now with new wonder telescopes in orbit (which Musk will no doubt supply for free) at some nebulous point 'in the future'.

Why doesn't that same condition exist for Musk and StarLink? Why shouldn't Musk wait until a better solution presents itself? A solution that isn't as ugly as turning the Moon into a billboard?
Should the US claim the entirety of the Moon of the moon because they were there first?

It won't be free for astronomers to upgrade to space-based systems, but thanks to SpaceX it will be a couple of orders of magnitude cheaper to launch, and somewhat cheaper to build (due to larger fairing sizes) space-based telescopes. Assuming budgets aren't cut further, the money that NASA, the ESA, etc will save by being able to launch payloads on SpaceX vehicles will also be able to go towards astronomy and other scientific endeavors.

And I mean ultimately, it's not as if the presence of Starlink will 100% prevent astronomy from the ground; some telescopes will be observing in bands that Starlink doesn't use, some will have windows for observation between direct satellite passes, some will be able to see unimpeded from near the poles, and many will use tools to simply filter out satellites that appear in their FOV.
 

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Why should astronomers just step aside and put a halt on major research projects and walk away from major investments in scientific equipment for 20, 30, 50 years based purely on a chance that maybe, just maybe, Musk might make things better for them in the future? What a ridiculous premise.
 

fredymac

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Its not just Musk. Everyone who wants global coverage is looking at LEO constellations. Even the Space Force. The astronomy community will need widespread support to keep all of these from developing. If widespread support is on the other side, they are not about to sue China and other countries from stopping.

Notional_zpslcazidzg.jpg
 

Arjen

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If widespread support is on the other side, they are not about to sue China and other countries from stopping.
Meaning 'the astronomy community' by 'they'? Why wouldn't astronomers want to sue China and other countries if they were to copy SpaceX's LEO constellation?
 
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