The director of the European Space Agency (ESA), Josef Aschbacher, sets off alarm bells because Elon Musk owns half of the world’s active satellites and “is making the rules,” consequently he proposes to limit his space power.
“You have one person owning half of the active satellites in the world. That’s quite amazing. De facto, he is making the rules. The rest of the world, including Europe, is just not responding quick enough,” Aschbacher stated according to The Straits Times of Dec. 6.
He added: “Space will be much more restrictive (in terms of) frequencies and orbital slots. The governments of Europe collectively should have an interest to give European providers equal opportunities to play on a fair market,” he told the Financial Times.
In this regard, according to his statement, Luxembourg’s Minister of Economics, Franz Fayot, agrees with Aschbacher’s concerns.
“You have people like Elon Musk, just launching constellations and satellites and throwing Teslas up into orbit. We need to set common rules. Colonisation, or just doing things in a completely deregulated space, is a concern,” Fayot said.
On the other hand, the risks of accidents are increasing due to the massive congestion of satellite devices orbiting around the planet.
In this context, Steve Collar, CEO of satellite operator SES, said that the industry “is heading for a situation where there will be too many satellites deployed. Many of these plans are in direct response to the fact that no one is regulating properly.”
Musk has achieved a great advantage in the satellite domain since his company SpaceX is in charge of putting the thousands of devices he manufactures into orbit, making it difficult for his eventual competitors to catch up with him.
As Ralph Dinsley, founder of NORSS, a company that tracks objects in space, said: “At the speed he is putting these into orbit, he is almost owning those orbital planes, because no one can get in there. He is creating a Musk sovereignty in space.”
In contrast, European operators have only some expensive satellites in high orbit to provide services such as TV broadcasting.
In contrast, Musk has already obtained authorization from U.S. regulators to use 30,000 satellites, and European agencies have granted his Starlink company permission for another 40,000 satellites.
For this year, Musk-owned SpaceX budgeted $30 billion to expand Starlink. It also launched more than 100 satellites a month, with about 2,000 in low orbit. It also sells services to some 140,000 users in 20 countries.
Among its plans are the installation of 200,000 user terminals in India by December 2022, and the launch of its internet services for remote locations in the Philippines, Insider reported.
Musk’s most immediate rival is New Zealander Peter Beck. According to Bloomberg, his company, Rocket Lab, specializes in low-cost space launches and, following its IPO through a special purpose acquisition company listing in August, raised $777 million.