After being hit by a solar storm, SpaceX’s newest fleet of satellites is sliding out of orbit.
According to a corporate update posted online Tuesday night, up to 40 of the 49 tiny satellites launched last week have either reentered the atmosphere and burnt up or are on the approach of doing so.
Last Friday’s geomagnetic storm made the atmosphere thicker, increasing the drag on the Starlink satellites and basically dooming them, according to SpaceX.
Ground controllers attempted to salvage the small, flat-panel satellites by putting them into a state of sleep and flying them in such a manner that they would generate the least amount of drag. According to the business, the satellites were unable to awaken and rise to a higher, more stable orbit due to the strong air drag.
Nearly 2,000 Starlink satellites are still circling Earth, delivering internet connectivity to far-flung parts of the globe. They circumnavigate the globe at a height of around 340 miles (550 kilometers).
The satellites that were impacted by the solar storm were only in orbit for a short time. SpaceX places them in this very low orbit to ensure that any failures return the atmosphere swiftly and pose no hazard to other missions.
According to the business, these recently launched satellites pose no threat in space or on the ground.
Each satellite is under 575 pounds in weight (260 kilograms).
The missing satellites were described by SpaceX as a “one-of-a-kind scenario.” Intense solar activity, such as flares, may send streamers of plasma from the sun’s corona hurtling out into space and toward Earth, causing geomagnetic storms.
Elon Musk has envisioned a constellation of thousands of satellites to boost internet access after launching the first Starlink satellites in 2019. Following the horrific volcano eruption and tsunami, SpaceX is attempting to restore internet access to Tonga using this network.
OneWeb, situated in London, has its own internet satellites in orbit. Later this year, Amazon wants to begin launching its satellites.
Astronomers are concerned that these massive constellations will interfere with Earth’s nocturnal observations. The International Astronomical Union is establishing a new facility to safeguard the night sky.