Technology 3 min read

Russian Startup Plans to Put Advertisements in Low-Earth Orbit

A Russian startup is planning to put billboards in space, but astronomers are not impressed.

Coca-Cola's Orbital Display billboard. | StartRocket

Coca-Cola's Orbital Display billboard. | StartRocket

Russian startup StartRocket reportedly plans to make the night sky glow even more – with billboards. Yes, the company is currently preparing to launch advertisements in low-Earth orbit using CubeSats or box-sized satellites.

“We are ruled by brands and events,” Vlad Sitnikov, StartRocket CEO, said in an interview.

“The Super Bowl, Coca Cola, Brexit, the Olympics, Mercedes, FIFA, Supreme, and the Mexican wall. The economy is the blood system of society. Entertainment and advertising are at its heart. We will live in space, and humankind will start delivering its culture to space. The more professional and experienced pioneers will make it better for everyone.”

If successful, the space billboard, called Orbital Display, could have an audience reach of around 7 billion people. It will orbit Earth from an altitude of 400 to 500 kilometers. This could enable the company to deliver three to four advertisements a day. The Orbital Display will have a viewable area of 50 square kilometers, using the sun as its light source.

Russian startup StartRocket's concept image of KFC billboard from space
Russian startup StartRocket’s concept image of a KFC billboard from space. | StartRocket

Scientists are not Impressed With the Russian Startup’s Orbital Display

While the futuristic idea gained the interest of the public, astronomers are fuming due to the light pollution generated by the space billboard.

“Launching art projects like this with no commercial, scientific, or national security value seems unwise,” Patrick Seitzer, an astronomy professor from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said.

“Space is getting increasingly crowded. There are over 20,000 objects with orbits in the official public catalog maintained by the U.S. Air Force. Less than 10 percent of those objects are active satellites — the rest are dead satellites, old rocket bodies and parts of spacecraft.”

John Barentine, a member of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on Light Pollution, Radio Interference and Space Debris and the current director of conservation for the International Dark-Sky Association in Tucson, Arizona, seconded Seitzer’s concerns.

Barentine claims that the Orbital Display threatens astronomical research studies performed from the ground.

“Every one of those moving blips of light in the night sky is something that can interfere with our ability to collect photons from astronomical sources,” Barentine added.

However, StartRocket team member Alexey Skorupsky argued that space commercialization is inevitable.

“If you ask about advertising and entertainment in general — haters gonna hate. We are developing a new medium. At the advent of television, no one loved ads at all.”

StartRocket hopes to launch its space billboards by 2021.

Are you in favor of commercializing space? Why or why not?

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Rechelle is an SEO content producer, technical writer, researcher, social media manager, and visual artist. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with family and friends.

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    Claire Smith April 08 at 10:04 am GMT

    Not in favor, simply because a great amount of energy will be wasted in flashing these advertisements.

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