A solar storm has entirely destroyed a bunch of Starlink satellites that SpaceX launched into orbit last week.
The 49 satellites were launched on February 3 and are now no longer out there due to a geomagnetic storm that recently hit. This increased the density of Earth’s atmosphere and with it the drag on the satellites. This led to 40 of those satellites being deorbited.
“Preliminary analysis shows 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 reenter or already have reentered the Earth’s atmosphere,” the update said.
SpaceX said that the nearly 600lb falling satellites do not qualify as a danger to those on the ground since they were designed to break up into tiny pieces upon reentry. The company also said that the wreckage poses “zero collision risk with other satellites.”
Geomagnetic storms occur when the Sun creates big bursts of energy from events like solar flares. The bursts can create solar winds that impact Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere.
A solar flare that happened on January 30th, created a burst that traveled at around three million miles per hour until it reached Earth and took down the 40 satellites like small specks.
This has proved to be a learning experience for Musk and the SpaceX team. It is said that the company needs to keep launching satellites to stay up financially.
However, this was something they were not expecting or could have thought to suspect. Nevertheless, it’s millions of dollars going in loss.