By Ariel Ekblaw
In the 19th century, urban planners wrangled the chaotic metropolises of Paris and New York into “planned cities,” turning warrens of streets into orderly grids, building sewage systems and transit lines, and allowing for new types of architecture, such as apartment buildings. Today, we face a similar inflection point in developing the nearest reaches of space.
The next decade is set to bring explosive commercial growth and more private industry players to low-earth orbit, the area spanning 100 to 1,240 miles above the planet’s surface. SpaceX has proposed a satellite-based internet, and Planet is growing its fleet of Earth-imaging satellites. NASA plans a transition towards commercial management of the international space station. Several startups are developing low-earth orbit advertisements—logos or other designs, visible in the night sky, made from tiny, reflective satellites. Entrepreneurs are making plans for space hotels.