Russian startup wants to launch glowing space billboards in 2020

A Russian startup called StartRocket is working on a terrible idea: space billboards that glow from low Earth orbit. The company hopes to one day offer these space billboards to corporate customers, enabling them to display their logo as a giant glowing banner across the night sky. The company hopes to launch its product by 2020 with the first displays going live in 2021.

StartRocket has released a concept video demonstrating the product it envisions: a series of CubeSats equipped with lights that would enable them to glow like bright stars. Called the Orbital Display, the startup says these CubeSats could be arranged to display company logos as if they were star constellations in the night sky, expanding corporate advertising into a new space...literally.

The CubeSats would operate in low Earth orbit, where they'd display the logos for six minutes at a time. It's a terrible idea, of course, one that would face a large number of issues, not the least of which being regulations that would need to be worked around.

StartRocket isn't the first company to envision deploying bright lights in the night sky. Back in October, a Chinese company called the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co. revealed plans to launch an artificial moon that would essentially function as a giant night light to illuminate areas on Earth.

It's doubtful that such plans will actually proceed, and certainly not within StartRocket's narrow time frame. The concept comes at a time when the effects of light pollution have increasingly been the subject of studies, finding disruption to both wildlife and human health. A number of countries have designated so-called Dark Sky Reserves as a result, which are areas of land free from light pollution.