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SpaceX will lose 40 Starlink satellites in geomagnetic storm

SpaceX announced that it will lose 40 of its 49 Starlink satellites last week due to a geomagnetic storm.

Elon Musk’s firm launched satellites into low Earth orbit from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on February 3, but 80% of them are expected to explode instead of reaching their intended orbit.

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SpaceX released a statement saying that satellites deployed on Thursday were “unfortunately” affected by a geomagnetic storm Friday. These storms cause the atmosphere heat up and increase atmospheric density at low deployment altitudes.

It stated that the storm’s speed and severity resulted in an “atmospheric draw” that was as high as 50% more than previous launches.

Geomagnetic storms result from interactions between the solar wind, a stream charged particles from the sun, and Earth’s magnet field.

The firm stated that up to 40 satellites would re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere or have already re-entered it. “The collision risk for satellites orbiting in the deorbiting direction is zero.”

Starlink’s satellites are designed so that they will disintegrate when they re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.

SpaceX has launched Starlink satellites 2,200 times and is authorized by the US to launch 12,000 more.

Astronomers are increasingly concerned about the network, which has drawn concern from scientists who fear that a megaconstellation of tens to thousands of satellites could ruin the night sky and limit the ability of scientists to study the faraway universe.

Josef Aschbacher (head of the European Space Agency) stated that Musk was “making rules” in space and called for coordinated European Union action to ensure that SpaceX’s satellite-internet constellation does not hinder other countries from launching their satellites.

China also accused the US of violating international treaty obligations following two “close encounters”, in which the Chinese space station had to maneuver to avoid collisions between Starlink satellites.

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