40 SpaceX Starlink satellites destroyed by geomagnetic storm

San Francisco: In an expensive blow to Elon Musk’s satellite Internet service Starlink, at least 40 of its satellites that were launched last week have been destroyed by a geomagnetic storm.

The escalation speed and severity of the storm caused atmospheric drag to increase up to 50 per cent higher than during previous launches, the company said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The Starlink team commanded the satellites into a safe-mode where they would fly edge-on (like a sheet of paper) to minimise drag — to effectively “take cover from the storm”.

“Preliminary analysis show the increased drag at the low altitudes prevented the satellites from leaving safe-mode to begin orbit raising maneuvers, and up to 40 of the satellites will re-enter or already have reentered the Earth’s atmosphere,” SpaceX elaborated.

According to the company, the de-orbiting satellites pose “zero collision risk” with other satellites and by design demise upon atmospheric reentry — meaning no orbital debris is created and no satellite parts hit the ground.

The company launched 49 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida onboard a Falcon 9 rocket on February 3.

“Unfortunately, the satellites deployed on Thursday were significantly impacted by a geomagnetic storm on Friday,” said the company.

SpaceX recently crossed the 2,000 satellite launch milestone, and plans to launch a total of 12,000 such satellites to provide cheaper internet services to various parts of the world.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Sambad English staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)


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