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Russian start-up plans to launch orbiting billboards



Do you think it’s hard to avoid advertising these days? Well, wait until Russian start-up Start Rocket launches its orbiting billboards, when even the night sky will become host to a range of adverts for big-name brands.
Should Start Rocket's plans prove successful you could soon see advertisements for beverages and other consumer items in the night sky.
(Should Start Rocket’s plans prove successful you could soon see advertisements for beverages and other consumer items in the night sky. Image via Start Rocket).

It might seem like a gimmick, but news reaches us at EngineeringPro towers this week that the Russian firm is already in talks with beverage giant PepsiCo to launch an advert that will orbit the Earth as early as 2021. PepsiCo has since claimed that these talks are only concerned with an initial test rather than a full-blown ad campaign.

Even so, the prospect of being able to launch an advert that could be seen by an audience of 7 billion people will surely prove too tempting for some brands to resist… 

The company’s Orbital Display will orbit at an altitude of 400-500km, delivering 3-4 messages a day across a viewable area of 50km2. The display itself will consist of synchronized swarms of cube-sats (which are mini-modular satellites). Once in position, the cube-sats will then unfurl reflective Mylar sails which will bounce sunlight back to Earth thus forming an advertisement in the sky.

According to Start Rocket’s website, once the satellites are in orbit and set-up, the cost of an advert using the system will be $200,000 for 8 hours.
Start Rocket's Orbital Display makes use of cube-sats and the sun's rays to create giant advertisements.
(Start Rocket’s Orbital Display makes use of cube-sats and the sun’s rays to create giant advertisements. Image via Start Rocket).

The reaction to the plans has not been universally positive.

Speaking to Astronomy magazine, John Barentine, director of conservation for the International Dark-Sky Association said, “Who wants to look at this? I can’t imagine anybody in a kind of a man-on-the-street situation if you ask them if they want to be confronted with advertising messages in the night sky would say, “Yeah, I think that’s a great idea”.

Despite the negative reception Start Rocket has received from the Astronomical community, it appears that orbital advertising is an idea whose time has come.

There are no laws against making cube-sats spell out messages and the tech already exists to make it possible. “I think it is inevitable that someone will do this,” Barentine says. “They will take the gamble that even a negative public reaction will still benefit the bottom line”.

Have your say

What do you think? Do advertisements belong in orbit? Or will this tech usher in some sort of Bladerunner-esque hyper-commercialised hellscape? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Tags: Engineering
Recent Comments
This idea of mucking up one of the last true beauties left in our earthly existence is appalling. The thought of looking into the night sky only to see advertisements makes me ill. Every effort must be made to block this from being our new reality.
Terri Cicatello, 25 April 2019
Definitely a no no, we are subjected to enough advertising already without it being in the night sky as well
Ian Joel, 03 May 2019
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Russian start-up plans to launch orbiting billboards - Time to read 3 min
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