Nearly 40 SpaceX satellites were unable to deploy into space after their launch in early February due to a magnetic storm. They disintegrated upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere a few days ago. Forty-nine satellites took off on February 3 from Florida (United States) aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. They were to be part of the Starlink constellation, intended to provide Internet from space. But their deployment was “significantly affected by a geomagnetic storm on Friday,” SpaceX explained in a blog post on Tuesday.
An insufficient “safe mode”
These events are due to eruptions on the surface of the Sun, which can cause particles to be ejected all the way to Earth, where they cause a magnetic storm. These storms are notably the cause of the aurora borealis, but can also disrupt telecommunications. They also increase atmospheric density at the low deployment altitudes of SpaceX satellites.
To counter the resistance effect induced by the magnetic storm, the satellites had been placed in “safe mode”, according to SpaceX. ” [Mais] preliminary analyzes show that resistance at low altitudes prevented the satellites from exiting safe mode to begin their orbit raising maneuvers. »
No risk of collision or fall
The machines had been placed in an orbit approaching the Earth at an altitude of 210 km at the closest. Elon Musk’s company now carries out checks before sending its gear higher. So if they don’t work, they can be easily redirected back to Earth and not create space junk.
The 40 satellites that will enter the Earth’s atmosphere pose “no risk of collision” with other satellites and no piece will reach the ground. Starlink’s first satellites were sent in May 2019. The constellation currently includes around 1,500 active satellites according to Elon Musk, and the company plans to position thousands more.