Tuesday, November 28, 2023


The sky is falling …? A controversy surrounding Starlink satellites

In a world where the sky is increasingly cluttered with satellites, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently raised alarms about the potential dangers posed by falling debris from SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. The FAA’s report, which has stirred a significant amount of controversy, suggests that these low-Earth orbit objects could, by 2035, fall and cause injury or even fatalities. Should Starlink RV aka Roam users be concerned that the service could be impacted?

Could Starlink satellites kill people?

In an article titled “FAA Says Starlink Satellites Could Kill People, SpaceX Shoots Back”, Jalopnik.com examines the FAA’s concerns in detail. According to the FAA, Starlink represents more than 85% of the expected risk to people on the ground and aviation from falling debris. The administration is particularly concerned about the satellites de-orbiting and falling to Earth, potentially causing catastrophic damage. (It is noteworthy that to date, despite more than two hundred Starlink satellites de-orbiting and reentering the atmosphere, not a single person, animal, or insect [that we know of] has been harmed.)

However, Starlink parent SpaceX has vehemently disputed these claims. In a rebuttal highlighted in the Arstechnica.com article titled “SpaceX Says FAA is wrong about Starlink satellite debris falling to Earth,” SpaceX asserts that the FAA’s claims are unfounded and that their satellites are designed to fully burn up in the atmosphere upon re-entry, negating any risk of harm.

The debate between the FAA and SpaceX underscores the broader issue of space debris and the potential hazards associated with the increasing number of objects in Earth’s orbit. It also seems to underscore the belief that the FAA is trying to play out of its league with regard to space travel.

For RVers, this controversy is of particular interest

The promise of Starlink’s satellite internet service offers the potential for unprecedented connectivity on the road. The ability to access reliable internet from virtually anywhere is a game-changer for both recreational and full-time RVers. Is there a real risk to the public, or to the continuing viability of the satellite broadband system?

Weighing the enormous benefits of Starlink and its nascent competitors like Amazon Kuiper with the need to ensure public safety will be a challenge in this new era of space exploration and satellite technology.

In the coming months, as the FAA and SpaceX continue to lock horns over this issue, RVers and the broader public should watch closely. We’re still in uncharted territory with commercial space operations.  The need for rigorous safety protocols, transparent communication, and international cooperation has never been greater.

The Starlink project has already changed internet connectivity for RVers and remote communities. The safety concerns raised by the FAA’s report should be examined along with the other complex challenges associated with the proliferation of low-Earth orbit satellites. Going forward, all stakeholders need to be able to foster a balanced approach that prioritizes both innovation and safety. To do that, we need reliable, empirical information, not theories or suppositions based on preconceived ideas or sensational unscientific predictions.

Additional recent Starlink news:


Randall Brink
Randall Brink
Randall Brink is an author hailing from Idaho. He has written many fiction and non-fiction books, including the critically acclaimed Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart. He is the screenwriter for the new Grizzly Adams television series and the feature film Goldfield. Randall Brink has a diverse background not only as a book author, Hollywood screenwriter and script doctor, but also as an airline captain, chief executive, and Alaska bush pilot.



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Nick (@guest_257609)
1 month ago

Lol! “The sky is falling!” And the Government wonders why people aren’t listening to them anymore.

Dr. Mike (@guest_257559)
1 month ago

Yeah…not so much. I used to be the Air Force chief of the Space Analysis Center inside NORAD/Cheyenne Mountain. It was my job to track and report on every man-made object in orbit. The Aerospace Corp. study that the FAA announcement was based on is faulty. Aerospace is working with SpaceX on an update. I could go into a lot of detail, but this Space News article sums it up well:


So, am I worried about Starlink debris smacking me (or anyone else) in the head? No.

Am I worried about Starlink being disrupted by loss of satellites? No, their replenishment rate is incredible.

Just my $0.02.

Diane McGovern
1 month ago
Reply to  Dr. Mike

Thank you for the very interesting info, Dr. Mike. Worth much more than $0.02, BTW.😉👍 Have a great day. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com

Bill Byerly (@guest_257545)
1 month ago

Thank you Randall for another great follow up report! It does seem to be a bit of an overreach on the FAA’ s part as stated in your column and through most of the comments.

Greg Illes (@guest_257523)
1 month ago

What a curious focus on Starlink… There are literally hundreds of providers of low earth orbit satellites, both foreign and domestic, and tens, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of actual satellites in orbit. And how often have we heard about anybody or anything anywhere on earth having been damaged by a satellite falling from orbit? That’s right, zilch. The FAA picking on Starlink has no technical merit that I can think of.

Joseph Phebus (@guest_257578)
1 month ago
Reply to  Greg Illes

I think this is an interesting article that puts some of those concerns in perspective.
Elon Musk’s Unmatched Power in the Stars https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/07/28/business/starlink.html?smid=nytcore-android-share
Starlink, and it’s emerging competitors are certainly on target to exponentially increase the amount of traffic and debris floating in orbit. Even if the satellites are designed to burn up upon reentry, I think its legitimate for the agency charged with the safety of commercial and passenger aircraft cruising at 6 to 8 miles high. There were roughly 10,000 satellites orbiting at the beginning of 2023, about 2/3 of them operational, so we’re looking at huge increases.

Neal Davis (@guest_257519)
1 month ago

Good job, Randall; thank you!

M.J. (@guest_257516)
1 month ago

Since when is the FAA the expert on deorbiting satellites? What does NASA think?

Texmcs (@guest_257508)
1 month ago

Please stop repeating such uninformed rhetoric.
These satellites are so small, the size of a table, they burn completely up upon reentry. Once again people saying things they have no real knowledge about. Just talking heads going after someone who doesn’t support or bow to their feet or political lean.
If this were the case, then they need to shut down Bezos’ program now.
Besides, there were about 40 some satellites that fell (and more fail) when they failed to reach proper orbit during a solar event. The FAA should point to thst debris, but oh wait there is none.

Ray (@guest_257488)
1 month ago

Yes there is quite a bit of space junk, some of which can hit the ground, but what are the odds? I suspect we have nothing to fear from those tiny satellites Musk puts up there. To think about what tasks he has chosen to undertake for the betterment of humanity, it’s hard to believe he has not taken the possibility under account and addressed it.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_257484)
1 month ago

It’s not like the US is the only nation putting ‘stuff’ into orbit. Do you think China or Russia cares what the FAA thinks?

Non Sequitor (@guest_257604)
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Uh, no…😕

BryanC (@guest_257482)
1 month ago

“…we need reliable, empirical information, not theories or suppositions based on preconceived ideas or sensational unscientific predictions.”

Thanks for writing the most intelligent sentence I have read in awhile!

Ken (@guest_257480)
1 month ago

Yet one more opportunity for the “Administration” to go after Elon.

Not that I would ever spend that much money on internet when I can get $50/month T-Mobile portable internet.

By my last count “they” have 5 mostly frivolous law suits against this guy. One of the true Genius Innovators of this Century but a little weird so “we” need to shut him down.

Ray (@guest_257486)
1 month ago
Reply to  Ken

Agreed. Elon continues to be a thorn in their side as his endeavors show clearly how private enterprise can be overwhelmingly superior to government-run projects.

Steve Davis (@guest_257471)
1 month ago

Hmm…So the 200 that have deorbited to date and not hit an RV, or anything else, aren’t a good indicator of future risk? Of all the thing to worry about this seems like one I can take off my list.

Texmcs (@guest_257509)
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Davis


Bob P (@guest_257470)
1 month ago

What goes up must come down…someday!

Gordon den Otter (@guest_257469)
1 month ago

When I read that something “might” or “may” occur, I always wonder who benefits by spreading the FUD. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that some other company or companies were lobbying the FAA.

Cancelproof (@guest_257454)
1 month ago

The underlying point, or perhaps it is simply my own takeaway, is the FAA being so hard at work to create a problem where none exists. Moreover, the potential for any actual risk in the future is absolutely negligible.

The Chicken Littles actually working at connecting these make believe dots to then shriek loudly that the sky falling and thus create another pseudo crisis, requiring another billion dollar impact study to create even more permanent Washington Beaurocrats that can never be fired. Is there a chance that Elon is on an enemies list of the permanent Washington class? Asking for a friend.

Tom (@guest_257461)
1 month ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

Yes, we need more government bureaucrats to save us from ourselves. After all, money is “free” to them.

Joseph Phebus (@guest_257501)
1 month ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

Or can we entertain the possibility that rather than making up problems or trying to stick it to the latest celebrity CEO, the FAA is actually doing its job is assessing risk and trying to think through and alert the public to the possible consequences of rapid growth of the number of satellite being launched, the need to track them to avoid accidents, and how to control the resulting pollution as they reach the end of their useful life. There are a little over 6500 satellites in orbit today. Musk is talking launching up to 42000, Bezos has been approved for 3600 for his nascent Kuiper project. Safe bet their will be many others as Chinese and others see $ and not long term risk.

Cancelproof (@guest_257525)
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

Possibly. I’m more of a Hooves = Horses kind of guy but I guess it’s possible that a herd of very very large possums are passing by?

We already know for a 100% fact, that federal agencies will disregard scientific evidence to develop a narrative that better suits a desired outcome. But you could also be right in your assertion JP. That’s the problem with the first lie, you can never know when the second one is being offered.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cancelproof
Joseph Phebus (@guest_257535)
1 month ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

I think I’ll go with competing viewpoints, scientific thesis, and the presense of a contrarian, albeit taxpayer funded viewpoint to offset the unrestrained pro-growth, pro-“shareholders are our only responsibility” of the 80s and 90s crop of the HBS grads and their peers as a healthy thing for Democracy and humanity.

Could be I’m hallucinating,
but I would posit not paying attention to the warnings when profits and rapid growth of beneficial technologies resulted in runaway pollution and other not so beneficial consequences.

We seem to have jumped to opposite sides of the same coin on this one Cancel. Maybe there’s something to be said for contrarians in a healthy democracy. 😉

Cancelproof (@guest_257549)
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

The recently increasing level of distrust in Big G has created a fresh crop of contrarians to be sure. The contrarian must always be the citizen in order to be a healthy democracy. It can never be the other way and still claim to be a ‘HEALTHY’ democracy. It is why Big G must prove beyond any rational doubt that a clear and present danger exists before positing and assigning the immeasurable standards of “maybe” or “could be” or “potentially” for claims of risk before seizing more power over any industry. 🌞👍

*Big G = Big Gov’t not Big Guy. Just in case.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cancelproof
Cancelproof (@guest_257556)
1 month ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

Just adding this tidbit and moving on…. the chance of a piece of falling debris from an orbiter hitting an aircraft mid flight is about the same as the chance of a random bullet from a Colt colliding with another random bullet fired 1/4 mile away from a S&W. It is virtually impossible. Could it happen? Sure it could but it is an immeasurable. Have a janitor at JFK take it on during his lunch break.

Joseph Phebus (@guest_257568)
1 month ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

Perhaps. But, I’ll still give deference to an administrative state staffed by SMEs, whose job it it to assess, plan for, and try to referee the competing interests of business, society, public heath and safety and the environment, rather than turn over regulation and the narrative to those who will most handsomely profit from unchallenged and unconstrained growth. The hope is our elections and elected officials will act as a counterbalance to both. Now, if we can get back to that, instead of being goaded by political ringmasters and clowns into tribal circular firing squads, that actually could happen again.

Cancelproof (@guest_257570)
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

🎯 on the last sentence JP. The first 80% however….. give deference to an administrative state …. because at no time in the last 3 years did the administrative state mislead or cover up facts and truths using fear and censorship. An FDA, CDC and WHO that all put power and control using false narratives, above the health of the population shouldn’t be a Red Flag when it comes to citizens giving deference to the administrative state charged with protecting citizens…… ? What could go wrong, AGAIN?

Let’s give Goverment the benefit of the doubt, said no founding father, ever.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cancelproof
Joseph Phebus (@guest_257589)
1 month ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

Who would you propose fill the role? Had the narrative on Covid not been made a political football, driven by political appointees and competing political agendas, might we have gotten better outcomes?

I don’t feel the fury over Covid some do. CDC & WHO were dealing with a lot of unknowns, and if they overreacted, I think it was out of overcaution not malice or a nefarious cover-up. There was some fantastic work done by both administrations in getting a vaccine to market and rolling it out.

If we want competent administrative agencies, we need to do a better job demanding and encouraging elected leaders to attract the best & brightest, not making them punching bags.

Cancelproof (@guest_257596)
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

Um, NO ONE until it is actually a problem, which will likely not happen for another thousand years. The sky is not falling is the entire point of the article JP. The FAA is creating a pseudo problem and then elbowing their way in as the savior and problem solver of a nonproblem.

On the Covid thing…. until someone has been held accountable for all the lies and disinformation of a campaign that forced once free people to inject a vaccine they never needed, and a few heads roll over the China cover up by our FDA and CDC, all trust is lost by 100 million Americans who’s doctors were prohibitted from prescribing effective treatments for political reasons.

Texmcs (@guest_257518)
1 month ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

FAA justifying themselves and trying to maintain an image of control.

Wolfe (@guest_257435)
1 month ago

This is a fluffy article… I’ve worked for Orbital Sciences, Lockheed, and currently the worlds largest international aerospace company. Way back in the 80s we had serious attention to orbital debris, and from the 90s onward have enforced near to absolute deorbit immolation. Most deorbits are intentional and well controlled; SpaceX satellites are downright delicate compared to the deepfreezer-size bricks I used to crash into the atmosphere, and even uncontrolled THEY burnt to dust. The risk of Starlink satellites reaching earth is laughable.

Diane McGovern
1 month ago
Reply to  Wolfe

Thanks for the info, Wolfe. And it’s good to see you’re still alive and kickin’.👍😄 Have a good evening/night. 😀 –Diane

Carl (@guest_257456)
1 month ago
Reply to  Randall Brink

I would agree, or maybe it just is that in today’s climate, there is a tendency toward overreaction and visualization of a malignancy behind every tree, so every statement from what one perceives is attacking one’s view must be conspiratorial. Thus, when a governmental agency states that smoking is dangerous or DDT is bad for the environment they must be “crying wolf.” I do however, believe that there is likely little danger from “Starlink debris.”

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