Pepsi has canned plans to advertise its new energy drink in space, but orbital billboards could be lighting up the sky within two years if Russian company StartRocket has its way.
Over the weekend it was reported that Pepsi had teamed up with StartRocket to promote a campaign against unfair stereotypes of gamers, on behalf of an energy drink called Adrenaline Rush.
The idea was reportedly to use a cluster of miniature low-Earth orbit satellites to project enormous advertisements into the night sky like artificial constellations.
The satellites work by reflecting light from the Sun back towards Earth's surface.
As such, they only work at dawn and dusk, when ambient light is low enough for the light reflected by the satellites to stand out against the sky.
Pepsi even went as far as testing the technology with a helium balloon that launched one of StartRocket's reflectors into the stratosphere, where it was visible from the ground.
"We believe in StartRocket potential. Orbital billboards are the revolution on the market of communications," Olga Mangova, a spokesman for Pepsi Russia, reportedly told Futurism .
"That's why on behalf of Adrenaline Rush – PepsiCo Russia energy non-alcoholic drink, which is brand innovator, and supports everything new, and non-standard – we agreed on this partnership."
However, Pepsi appears to have backed out of the project following a backlash from scientists and academics.
David Clements, reader in astrophysics at Imperial College London, described turning the sky into a floating billboard as "a monumental act of cultural and scientific vandalism".
Pepsi has since stated it has no further plans to use StartRocket.
"We can confirm StartRocket performed an exploratory test for stratosphere advertisements using the Adrenaline GameChangers logo," a PepsiCo spokesperson said.
"This was a one-time event; we have no further plans to test or commercially use this technology at this time."
Of course, that doesn't mean that other companies won't want to take advantage of the technology.
StartRocket plans to launch the system commercially in 2021, charging $20,000 (£15,300) for eight hours of advertising in the night sky.
"I think it is inevitable that someone will do this,” John Barentine, director of conservation for the International Dark-Sky Association, told Astronomy magazine .
"They will take the gamble that even a negative public reaction will still benefit the bottom line.
"There's not a lot that can be done, other than heaping scorn upon the companies that might advertise with the satellite owners."
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