A recent move by SpaceX has dropped some impressive specifications regarding its “newly upgraded” Starlink 2.0 satellites. The company says in order to mitigate the impact of satellite mega-constellations at work for the astronomical community, the upgraded Starlink satellites are coming up with elements that will lessen the amount of sunlight that these Starlink satellites reflect back to the Earth. In this way, the “Starlink satellites become invisible to the naked eye when at their standard operational altitude”, as per the claims of SpaceX.
We know that SpaceX is the major contributor in deploying its satellites into space and, recently, it has been announced by Elon Musk that they will incorporate “over 4,200 Starlink satellites into operation within 18 months”. According to the numbers, around 2,300 satellites are already in space and the company has got approval to deploy another 30,000 satellites into orbit. This would serve as a major intervening factor for the astronomical communities and hinder their work performance as well.
Samantha Lawler, an astronomer at the University of Regina in Canada, recently said in an interview, “We’re able to do less science with the same amount of time, and our time is all taxpayer-funded. So it’s a higher cost to taxpayers for the same amount of science because of the actions of a private company. ” Not only this, a private space firm has said that a lot of Starlink satellites are visible in the “first few hours of dusk” when there is a lot of astronomical work being done, and that is really hindering the operations.
To cater to these issues, SpaceX is now coming up with a “mirror film” to be deployed on its satellites, which will considerably scatter the sunlight away and make the satellites invisible to the human eye. Along with that, the company aspires to use a “low reflectivity black paint” on those parts of the satellites which remain uncovered from mirror film. Moreover, on the part of solar cells implanted in satellites, which also become a cause for the sunlight to reflect, SpaceX is now planning to deploy “dark red pigmentation” as an alternative to the white material used on its Starlink 2.0 satellites.
Apart from changing the material characteristics, reports are also circulating that SpaceX will change the direction of the solar arrays away from the sun during the early hours of the day. It said, “This off-pointing maneuver results in a 25 percent reduction in available power for the satellites. Despite this cost, SpaceX has specifically designed the second-generation satellites to be able to accommodate this significant power reduction. “
The International Astronomical Union’s Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference (IAU CPS) applauded the efforts of SpaceX in this regard and declared it “a real demonstration of corporate good citizenship, representing a significant investment of engineering resources on SpaceX’s part.”