Catastrophe At SpaceX: They Lose 40 Satellites In A Geomagnetic Storm

They are Starlink satellites used to provide satellite internet. The company has lost practically all the satellites it sent this month.

Virtually all of the Starlink Internet satellites that a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried into space on February 3 will not reach their intended orbit. 

SpaceX has revealed that a geomagnetic storm that took place a day after liftoff had a strong impact on the satellites, and up to 40 of them will re-enter or have already entered the Earth's atmosphere. 

The US Geological Survey describes geomagnetic storms as periods of "rapid magnetic field variation" typically caused by a strong surge of solar winds.

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These storms can damage electronics and orbiting satellites. In this particular case, it heated up the atmosphere and caused atmospheric drag, or the friction that acts against the motion of the satellites, to increase by as much as 50 percent compared to previous launches.

SpaceX explained that its Starlink team tried to save the newly deployed satellites by putting them in safe mode, which adjusts their movement so that they fly in a truly fluid way and without resisting the forces of gravity. Unfortunately, the increased resistance prevented the satellites from leaving safe mode.

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Satellites leaving orbit pose no risk of collision, SpaceX said, they will burn up completely when they re-enter the atmosphere and create no orbital debris.

Parts of the satellite are not expected to hit the ground. "This unique situation demonstrates the great efforts the Starlink team has made to ensure the system is at the forefront of in-orbit debris mitigation," the company wrote in its accident announcement.

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