Geomagnetic storm destroys up to 40 Starlink satellites launched last week

Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX launched another batch of 49 Starlink satellites onboard a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center last week.

Unfortunately, almost the entire payload has been, or soon will be destroyed.

According to a statement by SpaceX, up to 40 of the satellites will reenter, or have already reentered the Earth’s atmosphere due to a geomagnetic storm.

The storm took place on Friday, just one day after the launch, resulting in the atmosphere at the low deployment altitude of 210km (130 miles) to warm and atmospheric density to increase, SpaceX explained.

“SpaceX deploys its satellites into these lower orbits so that in the very rare case any satellite does not pass initial system checkouts it will quickly be deorbited by atmospheric drag,” the company said.

And that is exactly what happened. The increased drag prevented the satellites from leaving safe mode and beginning their orbit-raising maneuvers.

SpaceX said the unfortunate situation poses no threat to other satellites orbiting the Earth, or to anyone on the ground, adding that the company puts safety over cost.

“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. While the low deployment altitude requires more capable satellites at a considerable cost to us, it’s the right thing to do to maintain a sustainable space environment.” SpaceX said.

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