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Geomagnetic storm may have wrecked 40 Starlink satellites

Geomagnetic storm may have wrecked 40 Starlink satellites
9 Feb, 2022
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Starlink said that it might have lost 40 of its newly launched 49 satellites to a geomagnetic storm. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 49 Starlink satellites from NASA’s historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Now, a report claimed that 40 of them will burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere instead of reaching their destinations.

Falcon 9’s second stage deployed the satellites into their intended orbit, with a perigee of approximately 210 kilometres above Earth, and each satellite achieved controlled flight, a Verge report said. 

A geomagnetic storm or solar storm occurs when the Sun emits huge bursts of energy in the form of solar flares.

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As per an update on the SpaceX website, preliminary analysis shows that the increased drag at the low altitudes prevented the satellites from leaving safe-mode to begin orbit raising manoeuvres, and up to 40 of the satellites will re-enter or already have re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. 

“The deorbiting satellites pose zero collision risk with other satellites and by design demise upon atmospheric re-entry—meaning no orbital debris is created and no satellite parts hit the ground. 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,” it said. 

SpaceX claimed that these Geomagnetic storms cause the atmosphere to warm and atmospheric density at its rocket’s deployment altitudes to increase. Citing its onboard GPS, the company claimed that even escalation speed and severity of the storm caused atmospheric drag to increase up to 50%t higher than during previous launches. 

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