Over the past three years, SpaceX has deployed thousands of satellites into low-Earth orbit as part of its business to beam high-speed internet service from space. But the company’s latest deployment of 49 new satellites after a Feb. 3 launch did not go as planned.
As a consequence of a geomagnetic storm triggered by a recent outburst of the sun, up to 40 of 49 newly launched Starlink satellites have been knocked out of commission. They are in the process of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, where they will be incinerated.
The incident highlights the hazards faced by numerous companies planning to put tens of thousands of small satellites in orbit to provide internet service from space. And it’s possible that more solar outbursts will knock some of these newly deployed orbital transmitters out of the sky. The sun has an 11-year-long cycle in which it oscillates between hyperactive and quiescent states. Presently, it is ramping up to its peak, which has been forecast to arrive around 2025.
SpaceX announced the looming destruction of as many as 40 of its satellites in a company blog post on Tuesday night. The company said that after the launch, the satellites were released to their intended orbit, about 130 miles above Earth.
Read more at The New York Times