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Space Storm Destroys 40 of Elon Musk’s Starlink Satellites

Starlink Satellites space storm elon musk spacex
A Starlink satellite in space. Credit: SpaceX/Wikimedia Commons CC0

A space storm destroyed 40 of the 49 Starlink satellites that Elon Musk’s company SpaceX launched into space last Friday.

The 40 satellites, which are designed to combust and disintegrate before reaching the planet, will fall back down to Earth.

“The de-orbiting 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,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

The satellites are part of Musk’s Starlink Internet Services project, which aims to bring internet access to remote areas with phenomenally low prices and high speeds.

Starlink satellites destroyed by space storm

Geomagnetic storms occur when solar wind shock waves or clouds of magnetic field interact with the Earth’s own magnetic field, causing a temporary warming of the planet’s upper atmosphere, which can impact satellites.

Starlink satellites are intentionally released at a low orbit of around 210 km (130 miles) from Earth so that they can be disabled easily in case of malfunction, yet it was satellites at such low orbits that were impacted by the storm.

“While the low deployment altitude requires more capable satellites at a considerable cost to us, it’s the right thing to do to maintain a sustainable space environment,” SpaceX released in a statement.

The space storm that brought the bulk of the Starlink satellites down on Saturday occurred just one day after 49 satellites were launched into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday.

The Starlink project involves a fleet of flat-paneled broadband satellites flying over the Earth, which then beam down internet coverage to users who can access the service via a compact user terminal.

Nearly 2,000 SpaceX satellites have already been launched as part of Musks’ Starlink network, and the company hopes to send out around 10,000 more in the future.

China blamed Elon Musk and SpaceX for “close encounters” with satellites

This is not the first time Starlink satellites have had a rough orbit in space.

Musk came under fire after China stated in December that its space station nearly collided with his Starlink satellites on two occasions.

There were two “close encounters” with the satellites last year, according to China.

The incidents, which have not been independently verified, are said to have occurred on July 1 and October 21. China has reported the near-collisions to the United Nations Office for Outer Space.

In the public complaint, China stated that “for safety reasons, the China Space Station implemented preventive collision avoidance control” due to the Starlink satellites.

Starlink has already launched the first part of its associated activities in Greece. A small group of users can already use its internet services. Soon, the Starlink internet hardware will be sent to those who have pre-ordered it.

The newcomer is expected to revolutionize the domestic internet market, since the country currently ranks among the most expensive countries in Europe for internet provision, and a number of remote areas are even either completely cut-off or plagued by low connection speeds.

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