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9 Feb 2022

40 of SpaceX Starlink Satellites Wiped out by Huge Solar Storm

The Index Today

A powerful solar storm caused Elon Musk’s SpaceX to lose up to 40 of its Starlink satellites that were launched recently. The satellites had to “take cover” from the storm by going into safe mode – shutting down all non-essential functions – allowing them to get dragged closer to Earth’s atmosphere.

But the solar storm caused the atmospheric drag to increase, making it impossible for the satellites to turn off safe mode, and they will now continue to get closer to Earth until they are burnt up upon re-entry.

The storm struck a day after SpaceX launched 49 of the Starlink satellites, which are part of a satellite network that aims to provide internet access in remote areas.

“Unfortunately, the satellites deployed on Thursday were significantly impacted by a geomagnetic storm on Friday,” SpaceX said on its website on Tuesday.

“On board GPS suggests the escalation speed and severity of the storm caused atmospheric drag to increase up to 50 per cent higher than during previous launches.

“Preliminary analysis shows 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.”

Solar storms occur when the Sun is experiencing peak activity, causing it to shoot hot plasma in the form of solar flares and winds.

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