SpaceX suffered a loss of 40 satellites following a solar storm a day after launch. Starlink is Musk’s offer to provide high-speed internet using thousands of satellites in orbit.
The system is relatively expensive, but can be used in places where cable connections cannot. For example, in Tonga, where the January earthquake disrupted the underwater data cable. A Starlink station is being built near Fiji to help restore access.
SpaceX lost 40 satellites a day after launch
The last 49 satellites were deployed about 210 km above the Earth. SpaceX said that “every satellite made a controlled flight” after it was sent on February 3. However, a day later, the geomagnetic storm hit the Earth. It is the same type of mechanism that creates auroras as aurora borealis, but it can also have dangerous effects.
This storm warmed the atmosphere and made it much thicker than expected. SpaceX tried to put the satellites in a “safe” way, making them fly to the edge to minimize slipping.
“GPS on board suggests that the speed of escalation and the severity of the storm have caused the weather resistance to increase by up to 50% more than during previous launches,” SpaceX said.
The frequency was strong enough to prevent satellites from ever coming out of that “safe mode.” They had to return to the orbit they needed to reach to be stable. Instead, “up to 40” will fall back into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn.
Jacob Geer, head of the UK Space Agency’s Space Surveillance, said he did not expect “any part” of the satellites to hit the earth.
“Events like this remind us that space is a challenge, the introduction of satellites or astronauts into orbit is not yet easy,” he said.
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