Expert comment: ‘Giant disco ball’ launched into space – too costly for mankind

After the secretive launch into orbit of a satellite likened to a ‘giant disco ball’ by Rocket Lab, a New Zealand-based private space company, Kent Law School’s Gbenga Oduntan, an expert in space law, says it is ‘yet another example of the dangers of unregulated private involvement in significant space activities.’

‘Although the “Humanity Star”, a three-foot-wide geodesic sphere made from carbon fibre and fitted with 65 highly reflective panels is viewed by New Zealanders with pride, the launch is in a sense both a reflection of western scientific imperialism and the arrogance of contemporary mankind.

‘Since one of its principal aims is to shine and reflect sunlight back to earth simply for fun it constitutes clearly light pollution and a form of legal nuisance.

‘As with all other instances of excessive interference and exploitation of natural environment, the contemporary practice of frivolous placement of objects and satellites into outer space poses severe environmental damage.

‘The satellites in time fall out of orbit and turn into space junk with the potential of harmful re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere and endangerment of future space launches. Indeed this giant disco ball already likened by scientists to ‘space graffiti’ is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in just 9 months with perhaps dangerous consequences to other space objects and perhaps even pedestrians on the streets back on earth.

‘The real danger lies in the fact that hundreds and perhaps thousands of such ego trips will be launched across dozens of campuses and among space enthusiasts in the following years creating an endless circle of space junk.

‘There are already thousands of such space objects placed by a very few number of western states and even developing states like Brazil, India, Nigeria, South Africa are joining the fray. ‘Of course most satelites being launched across the world are for very useful if not even life-saving purposes such as communications, telemedicine, remote sensing and security.

‘However, a new sense of recklessness is creeping in, allowing modern day Victor Frankensteins to insert objects into near space without any real regulatory oversight.

‘The problem of space debris is already of immense concern to space scientists, the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and space lawyers and commentators.

‘The technology to place satellites in outer space is now open to many more states and private companies than in the past. An unbridled approach to satellite placement also creates problems of frequency allocation as well as shortage of suitable orbital slots.

‘With these considerations in mind it is possible to assert that the shining ego ball from New Zealand may prove too costly for mankind. It is not only frivolous, but it is environmentally damaging and contributes to the potentials of severe conflicts in the higher grounds.’

Dr Gbenga OduntanKent Law School, is an expert in Air and Space Law, with his work on this issue cited in the UK Parliament.