Satellite trains face a legal challenge.

Scientific American is looking up at the night sky and wondering if some new legal cases will keep the stars from being blotted out by brilliant chains of linked satellites:

The California-based communications company Viasat, which operates a rival satellite Internet service, submitted a filing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking for a reassessment of the FCC’s licensing of some Starlink satellites. While the filing only relates to a recent modification to lower the planned altitudes of about 3,000 Starlink satellites, the case could set a precedent that will force the agency to consider any future satellite licenses’ impact on the night sky. “I think the FCC is very vulnerable,” says a former FCC official. “I don’t think they have the documentation to explain to a court why NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act] doesn’t apply.”

An outcome in favor of Viasat might be welcome news to many astronomers. The current projected impacts of mega constellations on their studies of the heavens are expected to be stark. If all publicly known plans for such systems proceed—including mega constellations from the U.S., China and the U.K.—there could soon be about 65,000 satellites in orbit. That figure would far eclipse the current number of all active satellites, which is approaching 4,000. A recent analysis by Samantha Lawler of the University of Regina in Saskatchewan and Aaron Boley of the University of British Columbia shows that, in this event, there would be “more than 2,500 satellites visible all night during the summer,” Lawler says. “I was really horrified to see that number. You would potentially be seeing more satellites than stars for most of the population of North America and Europe. I can’t imagine my kids growing up with that.”