Geomagnetic Storm Destroys 40 New SpaceX Satellites in Orbit

Over the past three years, SpaceX has deployed thousands of satellites into low-Earth orbit to beam high-speed Internet service from space as part of its business. But the company has recently deployed 49 new satellites since February. 3 The launch did not go as planned.

As a result of the recent geomagnetic hurricane created by the recent solar flare, about 40 of the 49 newly launched Starlink satellites have been thrown out of commission. They are in the process of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, where they will be incinerated.

The incident highlights the dangers posed by the numerous companies planning to launch thousands of small satellites into orbit to provide Internet service from space. And it is possible that more solar flares will throw some of these newly deployed orbital transmitters out of the sky. The Sun has an 11-year cycle in which it rotates between hyperactive and quiet states. Currently, it is reaching its peak, which is predicted to come around 2025.

This latest solar peroxism was relatively moderate by solar standards. “I am confident that we will see an extreme event in the next cycle, as it usually occurs during the solar maximum,” said Hugh Lewis, a space debris expert at the University of Southampton in England. If the Milky Way Outburst can knock out 40 Starlink satellites hanging at low orbital heights, the more powerful solar scrim has the potential to do more damage to the mega-stars of SpaceX and other companies.

SpaceX announced the destruction of about 40 of its satellites in a company blog post on Tuesday night. The company said that after the launch, the satellites were launched into their desired orbit at an altitude of about 130 miles above the earth.

This altitude was chosen in part to prevent possible collisions with other satellites in the future. If satellites deteriorate after being deployed at that altitude, and are unable to increase their orbit to a more secure altitude, “the atmosphere kind of fails to reclaim the failed technology very quickly,” Drs. Lewis said. “And that’s a very good safety measure.”

But on Jan. 29, before these satellites were launched, a violent explosion from a very energetic particle and magnetic sun called coronal mass ejection was observed. That ejection came to Earth sometime around February. 2, creating a geological storm in the Earth’s magnetic bubble.

Powerful hurricanes add kinetic energy to particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. “As a result the atmosphere expands, a kind of puff,” said Dr. Lewis said. That expansion causes an increase in the density of the atmosphere, which in turn increases the gravity felt by the objects moving through it, including the satellites. This stretch shrinks the size of their orbits, which draws them closer to the thicker, lower atmosphere in which they burn.

According to SpaceX, during the recent Starlink deployment, “atmospheric pull due to the speed and intensity of the hurricane was 50 percent higher than the previous launch.” This ensured that about 40 of the 49 satellites would eventually be destroyed by gravitational forces.

There are currently a total of 1,915 Starlink satellites in orbit, so for SpaceX, “a loss of up to 40 from their point of view is not a big deal,” he said. Jonathan McDowellHarvard and Smithsonian astronomers Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., Which also lists and tracks artificial space objects.

But Dr. “If you include the launch price, it potentially accounts for up to $ 100 million in hardware,” Lewis said.

Solar eruptions and geomagnetic storms have known known dangers to objects in low-Earth orbit, ranging from electrical damage to communication disruptions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ranks geomagnetic storms on a scale from small to extreme. The latest, “moderate” hurricane has been reported by the agency as possibly a change in atmospheric tension that could alter orbit.

With these risks known, did SpaceX consider these risks during its Starlink deployment?

“I just feel a kind of confusion,” said Samantha Loler, an astronomer at the University of Regina in Canada. “Really? Haven’t they thought about this?”

“It’s a little surprising,” said Dr. McDowell. “They should be ready for this, someone would have thought.”

When contacted by email, a SpaceX media representative said no one was available to answer questions, noting that “this is an incredibly demanding time for the team.”

The fact that these satellites seem to be rapidly entering the atmosphere rather than being delayed in low-Earth orbit is a good thing. They do not threaten anyone on the ground. “From a security perspective, the system works exactly as it should,” he said. Lewis said. “The satellites went out of orbit, and nothing else was put at risk.”

Most satellites orbit at higher altitudes and can avoid the dangers posed by atmospheric expansion. But the threat to low-altitude orbiting satellites is still far away and raises the question of whether SpaceX can continue to orbit the spacecraft at this low altitude.

“As the sun becomes more active, it releases an increasing amount of excess ultraviolet, which is absorbed into our atmosphere,” said Dr. Lewis said. That atmosphere will expand significantly, and “the expectation is that the atmospheric density will increase by one or two degrees of intensity. That is a big change in a way compared to what we have just seen with this particular event.”

Many astronomers have criticized Starlink and other satellite constellations, which reflect sunlight and potentially interfere with Earth’s telescope research. And some see this phenomenon as a symbol of SpaceX’s attitude toward problems in low-Earth orbit.

Dr. Lewis said. “This is another example” – a policy of foresight, not foresight.

The death of these satellites is “a hard lesson for SpaceX,” said Dr. Lewis said. What happens next depends on them.

Dr. Lawler added, “I hope this will make some sense to them.”

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.