Musk loses 40 Starlinks in solar storm
February 10, 2022
By Chris Forrester
Elon Musk says that a geomagnetic storm wiped out 40 of the 49 Starlink satellites launched on February 3rd.
The solar storm happened 24 hours later and will mean that the broadband satellites will not reach orbit and in time will burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
SpaceX, in its statement, said the 40 craft were “significantly impacted” by the storm. The speed and intensity of the storm caused the “atmospheric drag” to climb to levels 50 per cent higher than previous launches. That made it much harder for satellites to reach their orbital position. The initial reaction from SpaceX’s engineers was to try to place the craft into a safe mode, but the atmospheric drag meant that potential solution was unworkable.
SpaceX normally launches batches of satellites into quite a low initial Earth orbit where they are checked out by the ground engineers. The normal pattern is to then raise the individual craft to its correct operational altitude.