Geomagnetic storm destroys 40 SpaceX satellites, company says no risk to earth
On Friday, Elon Musk‘s SpaceX company announced in an update that 40 out of the 49 satellites sent into orbit last week were wiped out by a geomagnetic storm.
Starlink had launched the satellites on Feb 03 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and with an intended orbit 130 miles above the earth. As the geomagnetic storm struck the satellites, the company’s team moved to action and brought the satellites into a safe mode but 40 satellites were unable to raise their orbits.
The company said there is “zero collision risk” with other satellites as 40 satellites are reentering or already entered the earth’s atmosphere. No debris is expected to hit the ground.
The incident is the largest collective loss of satellites stemming from a single geomagnetic event and was unique in the way it unfolded, Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said on Wednesday.
A geomagnetic storm comes from solar wind generated by the sun’s activity. The earth’s magnetic shield dumps the solar storm’s energy into our planet’s upper atmosphere and heats it up
Notably, the recent solar minimum coincides with a massive spike in the number of satellites in low earth orbit. About 4,000 small satellites have been launched in the past four years, according to an analysis by Bryce Tech – with the vast majority of those operating in low orbits.
The company issued a statement that read, “Unfortunately, the satellites deployed on Thursday were significantly impacted by a geomagnetic storm on Friday. These storms cause the atmosphere to warm and atmospheric density at our low deployment altitudes to increase. In fact, onboard GPS suggests the escalation speed and severity of the storm caused atmospheric drag to increase up to 50 percent higher than during previous launches. 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.”
PGurus is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with all the latest news and views
For all the latest updates, download PGurus App.
- Jaishankar highlights challenges, achievements of India’s G20 Presidency at ‘India-UN for Global South: Delivering for Development’ event - September 24, 2023
- PM Modi flags off 9 Vande Bharat Express trains across 11 states - September 24, 2023
- Uttar Pradesh: Yogi govt to take action on schools operating without recognition - September 24, 2023