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Starlink: 2,282 satellites launched

March 14, 2022

By Chris Forrester

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, says that following on from the 48 Starlink satellites launched on March 9th there have now been 2,282 launched.

But this total number is impacted by test-satellites, damaged and other problems as well as craft which have yet to reach their target orbits. The end result is that – as at March 10th – 1,564 Starlink satellites are fully operational.

McDowell’s research summarises that:
· 71 were de-orbited early
· 8 re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere having failed
· 7 are being disposed of
· 43 are out of constellation
· 179 are drifting
· 232 are in Ascent mode

Thus, there are 2,062 satellites which reached orbit and have not yet re-entered, whether working or not and 2,037 satellites still in orbit minus those thought failed (screened or uncontrolled decay).

The reasons for ‘Failure’ or ‘Disposal’ or other challenges for not reaching their target orbits are in themselves complex. An ‘Early deorbit’ covers satellites which have re-entered; or determined to be malfunctioning before reaching operational orbit, and abandoned or actively lowered prior to re-entry.

A Disposal covers a later semi-controlled re-entry: “satellites which reached the operational orbit but whose orbits were later lowered to cause early re-entry. These satellites retained propulsive capability but either failed in some other respect or were deliberately retired,” says McDowell.

The next SpaceX launch is likely to take place on March 18th/19th.

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