Start-up Company Plans To Put Ads In The Sky By Launching A Giant Billboard Into Earth’s Orbit

The Orbital Display would be active at dusk or dawn, showing around three to four logos a day for a period of 6 minutes each.

City landscape at night with sky filled with stars.
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The Orbital Display would be active at dusk or dawn, showing around three to four logos a day for a period of 6 minutes each.

It seems that the sky really is the limit for Russian start-up company StartRocket. The firm is planning to take advertising to new heights by placing glowing ads in the sky, Science Alert is reporting.

The plan is to launch an enormous solar-powered billboard into low-Earth orbit — and showcase ads for the whole world to see. The concept involves sending a fleet of mini-satellites, also known as CubeSats, into space. They would then use them to piece together a programmable display that would showcase ads targeting a potential audience of 7 billion people.

According to StartRocket, the idea is to use the giant billboard as a way of showcasing ads and logos, promoting global entertainment events, as well as conveying important messages to the public during emergency situations when other means of communications are rendered unusable.

“When phones don’t work, during zero visibility, power cuts and catastrophic emergencies, the government can use the display for urgent notifications for the population,” states the company’s website.

How Does The Orbital Billboard Work?

The space billboard is being referred to as the “Orbital Display,” and is made up of tiny CubeSats, each representing a single-piece canvas called a “Spaceboard.” These satellites are equipped with solar photon sails, which can be deployed to reflect the light of the sun, and which form the individual pixels of the beaming billboard.

Since it’s dependent on sunlight, the Orbital Display would only function at dawn or at dusk — and would allow companies to showcase their logos or messages for a maximum period of six minutes — but no more than three to four ads a day.

The entire structure spans a total area of 19 square miles (or 50 square kilometers) and is designed to orbit the planet at an altitude of 248 to 310 miles (400-500 kilometers).

“We are ruled by brands and events. The Super Bowl, Coca Cola, Brexit, the Olympics, Mercedes, FIFA, Supreme, and the Mexican wall,” project leader Vlad Sitnikov told Futurism.

“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.”

To illustrate what the Orbital Display would look like in the sky, Sitnikov released a concept video last week. The clip, which you can watch below, shows the entire process from launch to the finite product, showcasing bright logos of a number of famous brands, such as McDonald’s and KFC.

The Orbital Display will be tested this year, and could be launched as early as 2020 — provided that StartRocket receives funding and approval from regulators. If the project is given the green light, the space billboard should begin displaying ads in the sky in 2021.

Negative Reactions From The Science World

While the team is excited about this novel project, not everyone welcomes the idea. Astronomer John Barentine, director of the International Dark Sky Association in Arizona — and a member of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on Light Pollution, Radio Interference and Space Debris — has expressed concern that the giant glowing billboard in the sky would interfere with scientific observations.

Although the Orbital Display is unlikely to produce space debris — the satellites that make up the structure would expire in about a year, safely burning up in the atmosphere — the project could end up producing light pollution, and even disrupting radio signals.

“It’s a threat to the ability to do astronomical research from the ground,” Barentine told Astronomy magazine.

“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.”

Nevertheless, StartRocket staff point out that the ads would only be visible for a short amount of time — lasting no longer than a coffee or a bathroom break, claims Sitnikov.

“If you ask about advertising and entertainment in general — haters gonna hate,” said StartRocket team member Alexey Skorupsky.

“We are developing a new medium. At the advent of television no one loved ads at all.”

This is not the first time that companies have had the idea to use the sky as a display for their inventions. Last year, New Zealand’s Rocket Lab came under fire from the scientific community after launching the Humanity Star “Disco Ball” satellite, which lit up the sky for a few minutes in a campaign to promote world unity, the Inquisitr reported at the time.

Meanwhile, the Japanese ALE Co. start-up plans to give the world the first-ever artificial meteor shower — so that people would have shooting stars on demand, per a previous report from the Inquisitr.

Lastly, China has plans to launch an artificial moon into orbit to replace streetlights, the Inquisitr also recently reported.