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Why did geomagnetic storms destroy Musk's Starlink satellites?

C C Offline

EXCERPTS: Elon Musk’s SpaceX is feeling the pinch of that solar threat this week: The company expects to lose nearly a full launch’s worth of Starlink internet satellites after a geomagnetic storm disrupted the Earth’s atmosphere and sent about 40 of the spacecraft to an early, fiery demise.

[...] Skov emphasized that Starlink satellites are “very small” but have large solar panels for power, essentially giving each spacecraft “massive” parachutes.

“It was kind of this recipe for disaster when it came to drag,” Skov said. “Some of us in the space weather community have been talking about Starlink satellites falling out of the sky for years – because we knew it was just a matter of time as soon as our sun started getting active again.”

Additionally, the Earth’s “spongy” atmosphere means there isn’t a specific minimum altitude in orbit that is safe, according to Skov. The Starlink satellites recently destroyed were at an altitude of 210 kilometers having just launched. That’s well below the 550 kilometer altitude where the rest of the network’s satellites are raised to, but Skov said “the potential for drag” still exists at the Starlink operational orbit.

Skov and Palmerio emphasized that destruction due to geomagnetic storms happens more often than commonly thought, giving examples from historical solar events. [...] The major difference in the current solar cycle, compared to the previous one that peaked in April 2014, is the thousands more satellites in low Earth orbit.

“This is the wild, wild west,” Skov said... (MORE - missing details)

Fireballs over Puerto Rico likely from doomed Starlink batch

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