SpaceX has revealed that a geomagnetic storm which took place a day after it launched 49 satellites into space has taken out 40 of them, which will likely re-enter or have already entered Earth’s atmosphere. SpaceX said the storm caused “up to 50 percent higher drag than during previous launches,” which prevented the Starlink satellites from reaching their proper orbital position around the earth.
Geomagnetic storms are described as temporary disturbance in Earth’s magnetic field typically caused by strong surge in solar winds and these can be cause damaging to electronics and satellites in orbit. SpaceX explained that geomagnetic storms cause the atmosphere to warm up, which leads to increased atmospheric density around low deployment altitudes.
SpaceX added that its Starlink team tried to save these satellites by flying them “edge-on (like a sheet of paper)” to ensure there is as little drag as possible but it’s seems like “up to 40 of the satellites will re-enter or already have re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere” instead of reaching their destinations.
The company added that its satellites would “demise upon atmospheric re-entry,” which means no debris will be created no satellite parts would hit Earth. “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,” said the company in its announcement.
However, to make the Starlink constellation completely functional, SpaceX would launch up to 30,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit if gets the required approval in order to provide a global internet coverage. The company has already launched 2,000 satellites as of January this year as part of its first-gen constellation, so the current loss of 40 satellites may not cause a huge impact to the project.
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