As Earth’s nearest orbit progressively gets more crowded with satellites and space junk, some companies are looking at the planet’s second-closest orbit for expansion. As tech companies such as SpaceX, Amazon, and OneWeb, race to send up their own mega-network of satellites, this low Earth orbit area is running out of space.
SpaceX plans to eventually launch 42,000 satellites into space to set up its Starlink service. Amazon is trying to send 3,236 satellites and OneWeb has planned approximately 650 of its own satellites. Tanya Harrison, the director of the strategy at Planet Labs, told CTV “orbit altitudes that are actually useful for us here on the ground are quite limited.”
That is why these companies are looking into medium Earth orbit. Sending satellites further to the next orbit makes sense and is considered safer than low Earth orbit (LEO). This is because in LEO there is a lot more risk for collisions with fast-flying space junk. Harrison further explains that “Medium Earth orbit is a little bit odd in that it has a really harsh radiation environment.”
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