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A Billboard Will Show Ads From Space, But You Won't Be Able To See It In The Sky

It seems there's no way to escape advertising these days — and at first blush, news that a Canadian company has contracted SpaceX to put a billboard into low-Earth orbit would appear to end any debate to the contrary.

Startup Geometric Energy Corp. (GEC), tells Business Insider that next year it plans to blast a satellite into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will allow advertising to be beamed from Earth and displayed on a pixelated screen on the side of the spacecraft.

But, in case you're worried that giant space billboards will forever ruin a romantic walk under the stars, you should know that GEC describes its planned spacecraft as a CubeSat, a type of craft measuring only about 4 inches by 4 inches by 4 inches. Rather than being visible from the ground, the ads will be photographed using a high-tech selfie stick and livestreamed on YouTube or Twitch.

The idea is that anyone can do an ad buy on the GEC satellite, purchasing tokens to design their message, determine its colors, brightness and how long it will be displayed, Samuel Reid, CEO and co-founder of the company, told Business Insider.

Emails from NPR to GEC seeking details of the satellite were not immediately returned.

"There might be companies which want to depict their logo ... or it might end up being a bit more personal and artistic," Reid said.

"I'm trying to achieve something that can democratize access to space and allow for decentralized participation," Reid said. "Hopefully, people don't waste money on something inappropriate, insulting or offensive."

Although the whole thing does sound rather innocuous, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has already taken heat for blemishing the night sky with another project, Starlink — a massive constellation of satellites to create a low-cost global Internet link.

As NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reported in 2019, SpaceX's launch of dozens of Starlink satellites into orbit has astronomers worried about permanently altering their views of the night sky. Similar concerns have been expressed by amateur astronomers.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.