SpaceX is expected to lose up to 40 satellites, due to a geomagnetic storm in space that hit just one day after they launched.
After sending off 49 Starlink satellites on Thursday via its Falcon 9, Elon Musk’s space venture has confirmed that it will suffer a major loss as a result of the storm which was spotted on Friday.
“These storms cause the atmosphere to warm and atmospheric density at our low deployment altitudes to increase,” SpaceX said in a statement.
“The Starlink team commanded the satellites into a safe-mode where they would fly edge-on (like a sheet of paper) to minimize drag — to effectively “take cover from the storm”— and continued to work closely with the Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron and LeoLabs to provide updates on the satellites based on ground radars.”
Geomagnetic storms are caused by the sun spitting solar wind particles that eventually crash into the Earth, and disrupt satellites, by increasing drag.
While the company raced to put the satellites into a so-called “safe mode”, SpaceX’s preliminary analysis has revealed that the evasive manoeuvres stopped the low-orbit satellites from being able to edge higher into orbit.
The satellites will, or have already, disintegrated as they re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.
SpaceX assured that there would be no debris, and so no collision risk to Earth.