Hard blow for SpaceX. A magnetic storm prevented nearly 40 satellites sent by the firm at the beginning of February from correctly rejoining their orbit, announced this Tuesday the company of Elon Musk, who specified that the satellites disintegrated while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. A total of 49 satellites took off on February 3 from Florida aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. They were to be part of the Starlink constellation, intended to provide Internet from space.
The deployment of this new batch was “significantly affected by a geomagnetic storm on Friday,” SpaceX wrote in a blog post. These events are due to eruptions on the Sun’s surface, 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.
No risk of collision with other satellites
“These storms warm the atmosphere and increase atmospheric density at our lower deployment altitudes,” SpaceX said, noting that the satellites were placed in an orbit approaching Earth at an altitude of 210 km or less, at a location where SpaceX carries out checks, before sending its machines higher.
While 40 satellites “will re-enter or have already re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere”, SpaceX assured that they posed no risk of collision with other satellites (the constellation includes around 1,500 active ones). They are designed to decay in the atmosphere, so that “no part of the satellite touches the ground”.