The company has outlined plans to create a programmable display in the night sky, using a formation of tiny cube satellites orbiting roughly 400-500 kilometers above Earth.
According to the report, StartRocket would create the floating billboard using the satellite formation, with each cube acting as a singular pixel. The company thinks of their billboards in space as the creation of a new media. The company calls them Orbital Displays, and each one would only last about a year. They would be easily visible on clear nights, but not overbearingly bright. They would be about magnitude -8, with the Full Moon being magnitude -13 and the Sun magnitude -27.
Vladilen Sitnikov, StartRocket’s CEO, describes himself as an advertising guy with a “crazy idea.” He approached SkolTech, a private university in Moscow, to figure out the technical details, contracting a team of engineers to develop a prototype. If the company can find the money, their first test launch could happen this summer, with a full execution in 2021.
“It’s human nature to advertise everything … Brands [are] a beautiful part of humankind,” Sitnikov says. He compared his efforts to Elon Musk and SpaceX, who last year launched a Tesla car into space, which many considered an advertisement. Sitnikov also compared his Orbital Display to banner-towing airplanes.
While the idea is sure to whet the appetite of advertisers everywhere, Start Rocket’s daring concept is already receiving its fair share of criticism. Astronomers are against it, because the increasing number of objects in the night sky make observing and studying the universe incrementally more difficult.
Astronomer John Barentine, who serves as both director of conservation for the International Dark-Sky Association in Tucson, Arizona, and a member of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on Light Pollution, Radio Interference and Space Debris, says these space billboards could qualify as both light pollution and space debris and possibly even disrupt radio signals.