Russian startup promises space advertising

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I really love advertising, but Earth is just so confining?” If so, Russian startup StartRocket has you covered. StartRocket plans to launch cube satellites in 2021 that will make space advertising the next wave of marketing. Orbiting at a height of 400-500 kilometres, the cubesats would be equipped with 9-metre sails to reflect sunlight to spell out words or beam company logos to an audience of literally everyone.

“After the success of SpaceX, I assumed that everything is possible. In January 2018, when the American space company Rocket Lab launched the ‘disco ball’ into space, I also decided to try,” StartRocket CEO Vladilen Sitnikov explains on the company’s website.

StartRocket says the space advertising — Orbital Displays, Sitnikov calls them — will be visible to everyone on the planet 10 or more times per day, with prime times being near dawn at twilight. On a clear night, the adverts could be continuously visible.

The space advertising cubesats will supposedly burn up in the atmosphere after a year. In addition to adverts, StartRocket envisions the cubesats can be used for entertainment or messages, like permanent sky-writing, and emergency communication. Though one wonders how governments will be able to launch satellites with any kind of detailed message when “phones don’t work, during zero visibility, power cuts, and catastrophical emergencies,” as StartRocket’s website claims.

While Sitnikov thinks it’s a great idea, not many agree. The comments on StartRocket’s promotional video are overwhelmingly negative, and the International Dark-sky Association denounced the plan.

“Putting more satellites up there is going to cause more opportunities for collisions, and we don’t want that happening,” John Crassidis, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University at Buffalo, told NBC. “My biggest issue is that these objects are going to become space junk.”

StartRocket has a totally different view.

“Space has to be beautiful. With the best brands our sky will amaze us every night,” the website declares. “No ugly place there after this.”