At least 40 of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites were breached by a Geomagnetic Storm

In addition to sending astronauts to the International Space Station and building a giant rocket that will send humans to the Moon and Mars one day, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has another pretty important endeavor. important to his business plan: build a satellite network that can provide broadband internet to any and all parts of the world. That project, called Starlink, just hit a major hiccup this week.

In a blog post published Tuesday night, SpaceX revealed that 49 Starlink satellites launched on February 3 were hit by a geomagnetic storm the next day. Atmospheric drag has prevented many of them from reaching their intended orbits around the Earth. At least 40 of those satellites will not reach their destination, and will instead be destroyed in the atmosphere as they fall back onto the planet.

“Preliminary analysis shows that increased drag at low altitude has prevented satellites from leaving safe mode to begin orbital lift operations, and that up to 40 satellites will return or have already returned. the Earth’s atmosphere,” the company wrote. “The orbiting satellites have no risk of colliding with other satellites and by design collapse on re-entry – meaning no orbital debris is created and no satellite parts which touches the ground. This unique situation shows that the Starlink team has gone to great lengths to ensure the system is in a leadership position in reducing orbital debris. ”

The company has more than 2,000 active Starlink satellites in orbit, so the loss of 40 satellites is pretty small. SpaceX plans to have its constellation appear with at least 12,000 satellites and has been toying with the idea of ​​expanding it to 42,000 satellites en route.

Much of SpaceX’s blog post is devoted to promoting the low level of influence its satellite has in the skies — something that contradicts repeated reports over the past few years that the Starlink satellite destroy astronomyand create a Dangerous potential for collisions with other objects in orbit.

But this is the first time the potential dangers of a geomagnetic storm have been part of the Starlink conversation. Caused by solar eruptions, geomagnetic storms aren’t always easy to predict, and it looked like SpaceX and its partners caught off guard last week. With nearly 10,000 more satellites to be launched this decade, it remains unclear whether SpaceX will change its tactics to be more cautious in the future or simply swallow costs and carry on with business as usual. At least 40 of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites were breached by a Geomagnetic Storm

Russell Falcon

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