Space billboards can cost $65 million and still make a profit • TechCrunch

Since the Apollo era, space advertising has been on the minds of every marketer on the planet, but no one has made it possible. A new study suggests that a billboard-like constellation of about 50 satellites, all costing $65 million, could beam ads to all corners of the Earth for months — potentially making money doing so.

Of course, just because they could, doesn’t mean they should. But now let’s focus on the first.

The study, from Russian researchers from the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), presents a fairly compelling case, bolstered by the recent controversy surrounding SpaceX’s highly visible Starlink satellites. .

The paper’s proposal involves sending a constellation of about 50 satellites on a 12U CubeSat volume — think about the size of a full paper shopping bag. The satellites would enter a sun-synchronous orbit, meaning they will always be in direct sunlight as they go around the Earth.

Once in orbit, they would deploy large, parabolic reflectors that would bounce sunlight toward Earth. These could be tilted to best present the sunlight to a target area they pass over, and from the ground it would appear as if a group of stars were moving in sync for a period of perhaps three to five minutes. (To be clear, the image at the top is for illustration purposes only – it would be much fainter in reality.)

The 50 satellites were able to rearrange themselves into patterns, from letters to simple images — not fast, but fast enough to allow the shape to evolve over their visible time or change advertisers between target cities. They would disappear from their jobs after 1-3 months depending on several factors. I’ve asked the researchers for clarification on the longevity, display duration, and a few other details and will update this post if I hear anything.

Diagram of a satellite’s reflective footprint and examples (an Olympic Games and Eiffel Tower logo) of possible displays. Image Credits: Skoltech/MIPT

The physical ability to do this doesn’t seem at all outlandish given how visible existing satellites can be in these orbits and the precision with which they can already be arranged. So with that established, much of the paper is devoted to economic analysis. After all, we could probably have launched a Nike logo to space in the ’90s (and there were attempts) if the world converged on it… but why would they? The thing has to make financial sense.

The cost of the mission is estimated at $65 million, with the bulk going towards manufacturing the 50 satellites ($48.7 million), then testing, support and engineering ($11.5 million) and of course launching. ($4.8 million). That seems reasonable enough in theory.

But it’s getting a little fuzzy in the income estimates. A complicated equation to determine which cities, in which regions and at what times of the year would bring in more money, suggests that winter yields the greatest ROI. You may think: but in winter people stay indoors. Yes, but not in the tropics and much of South and Southeast Asia, where winter brings longer nights, but nothing like the bleak weather of the northern latitudes. And it happens that some of the most densely populated cities in the world are there.

Images showing possible configurations of satellites in Olympic rings and Eiffel Tower shapes. Image Credits: Skoltech/MIPT

Their most optimistic estimate comes in at about $111 million, over three months and 24 screens — that works out to about $4.6 million per ad. Super Bowl ads cost more than that and last only 30 seconds – although of course they are in 4K and full color with sound. But the money and appetite for stunt advertising is definitely there.

The main question is: does anyone want to see ads in the air? Almost certainly not. While the novelty of a satellite-based screen might leave some in awe for a moment, that screen that makes up the Pepsi logo — or more likely or something — can quickly turn awe into disgust. “That’s it? A sloppy advertisement?” if you want.

It would be a huge gamble in terms of reputation: the first company to put its ads among the stars. Sure, we have sponsored content and logos on the International Space Station, but that’s different. If you see the ISS passing overhead, no “SNICKERS SATISFIES” in Morse code will blink at you.

The research from Skoltech and MIPT is likely something that is internally speculated by many companies that have been pondering the possibility for years. However, the idea that the entire operation could actually make money is a relatively new development; even five years ago, the numbers might not have worked. And remember, this is just one view of the problem – others may come to different conclusions.

Will we see ads in the stars soon? Unlikely, but anything profitable happens sooner or later in this crazy, crazy world of ours, so don’t be surprised if you hear of attempts being made. Maybe we’ll ban it – but who has jurisdiction? Or maybe launch companies will drop out – but do they want to be put in that position? It’s an odd possibility and very sci-fi, but so is a lot of what’s happening these days.

The full article can be read here.

Supply hyperlink

Leave a Comment