SpaceX loses 40 Starlink satellites to a geomagnetic storm2022-02-09 19:23 by Daniela
Tags: SpaceX, Starlink
Elon Musk's SpaceX said it lost up to 40 Starlink satellites that it launched into orbit last week because of a geomagnetic storm.
These storms can be damaging to electronics and satellites in orbit. In this particular case, it warmed up the atmosphere and caused atmospheric drag - or the friction acting against the satellites' movement - to increase up to 50 percent higher compared to previous launches. SpaceX explained that its Starlink team tried to save the newly deployed satellites by putting them in safe mode, which adjusts their movement so they'd fly edge on like a sheet of paper, to minimize drag. Unfortunately, the increased drag prevented the satellites from leaving safe mode.
The deorbiting satellites pose no collision risk, SpaceX said, will completely burn up as they re-enter the atmosphere and will create no orbital debris. No satellite parts are expected to hit the ground. "This unique situation demonstrates the great lengths the Starlink team has gone to ensure the system is on the leading edge of on-orbit debris mitigation," the company wrote in its announcement.
The Starlink program - intended to broaden internet access around the world - has been criticized for years by astronomers and preservation groups concerned that the light pollution thrown off by the satellites will interfere with science and natural dark skies. Last month, a study published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters showed that the Starlink formations are causing increasing streaks in telescope images. On Feb. 2, the day before this launch, the International Astronomical Union announced the formation of the Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference, made up of astronomers, satellite operators, and regulators, to work on protecting the sky from light pollution from satellites.
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