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Space billboards could cost $65M and still turn a profit • TechCrunch


Space-based advertising has been on the minds of every marketer on the planet since the Apollo era, but no one has done it yet. A new study suggests that a billboard-like constellation of about 50 satellites, valued at $65 million, could beam ads to every corner of the Earth for months — and potentially make money doing so. .

Of course, just because of them maybe doesn’t mean they Candlestick. But now let’s focus on the former.

Research from Russian researchers at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, makes a rather convincing case reinforced by the recent controversy surrounding the Starlink satellite SpaceX’s highly visible.

The paper’s proposal involves sending up a constellation of about 50 satellites with a mass of 12U Cubesat – think about the size of a full paper grocery bag. The satellites will enter a synchronous orbit with the sun, which means they will always be in direct sunlight as they orbit the Earth.

Once in orbit, they will deploy large, parabolic reflectors that will reflect sunlight back to Earth. They can be tilted to best direct sunlight to the target area they are passing, and from the ground appear to be a group of stars moving in sync over a period of perhaps three to five years. minute. (Just to be clear, the image at the top is for illustration only – it will be much dimmer in reality.)

The 50 satellites can rearrange themselves in patterns, from letters to simple graphics – not fast, but fast enough that shapes can evolve over their display time or change advertisers between target city. They will debit in 1-3 months, depending on a number of factors. I have asked the researchers for clarification on lifetime, impression duration, and some other details and will update this post if I get a response.

Diagram of satellite reflection footprint and examples (Olympic logos and Eiffel Tower) of potential displays.

The physics of this doesn’t seem strange at all, considering how visible existing satellites are in these orbits and the precision with which they can be aligned. So, with that established, much of the paper is dedicated to an economic analysis. After all, we could have launched the Nike logo into space in the ’90s (and have tried) if the whole world had used it… but why? This must make financial sense.

The cost of the mission is estimated at $65 million, most of which goes to the production of 50 satellites ($48.7 million), followed by testing, support, and engineering (11.5 million dollars). million dollars) and of course launch ($4.8 million). That seems reasonable enough in theory.

But it’s a bit lackluster in earnings estimates. A complex equation for determining which cities, regions, and times of year will make more money suggests that winter offers the greatest ROI. You might think: but people stay indoors during the winter. Yes, but not in the tropics and much of South and Southeast Asia, where winter brings longer nights but not the same extreme northern latitudes. And it happens there are some of the most densely populated cities in the world.

The image shows the satellite’s potential configuration into Olympic rings and Eiffel Tower shapes.

Their most optimistic estimate puts a net income of around $111 million, over three months and 24 impressions – an estimated $4.6 million per ad. Super Bowl commercials cost more than that and last only 30 seconds – although they are of course in 4K and full color with sound. But the money and appetite for stunt advertising is definitely there.

The more important question is does anyone want to see ads in the sky? Almost certainly not. While the novelty of the satellite-based display might short-lived some people, that screen forming the Pepsi logo – or more likely, Crypto.com or something – can quickly turn to awe. “Is that it? A crude commercial?” if you will.

It would be a huge reputation gamble: the first company to place its advertisement among the stars. Sure, we had sponsored content and logos on the International Space Station, but that was different. When you see the ISS pass overhead, it won’t flash down “USER SATISFACTION” with Morse code on your side.

Research from Skoltech and MIPT is probably something that has been speculated internally by many of the companies that have looked at the possibility for years. However, the idea that the whole operation can actually make money is a relatively new development; even five years ago, the numbers might not have worked. And remember this is just one problem solver – others may come to different conclusions.

Will we soon see ads in the stars? Not likely, but anything profitable tends to happen sooner or later in this crazy, crazy world of ours, so don’t be surprised if you hear about the efforts being made. . Maybe we’ll outlaw it – but who has the authority? Or maybe the launch companies will decline – but do they want to be included in that position? It’s a strange and very sci-fi possibility, but so is a lot of what goes on today.

Entire paper available for reading here.

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