SpaceX Launches New Satellites into Higher Orbit after Solar Storm

SpaceX Falcon 9 | Image by spacenews.com

SpaceX launched a new batch of Starlink satellites last week after a solar storm caused over three-fourths of the satellites to fail. On February 21, the Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and lifted the forty-six satellites into the atmosphere.

This is Falcon 9’s seventh mission this year, keeping pace with the company’s goal of fifty launches this year. This was also the fourth Starlink satellite launch this year. The other launches carried the CSG-2 radar imaging satellite for Italy, the Transport-3 rideshare mission, and a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Nine minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s first stage came back down to earth for a vertical touchdown. It was able to land on A Shortfall of Gravitas, SpaceX’s drone ship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles off the coast of Florida.

This is the company’s 107th successful landing. SpaceX prides itself on the improvements it continues to make in reusable rocketry.

“Improvement on the fairing and our overall refurbishment process has decreased the impact of water landings and led to an overall fairing recovering rate of 93% over the last fourteen launches,” said SpaceX Engineer Jessie Anderson during the company’s live stream.

This mission was the first launch since February 3, when SpaceX placed forty-nine Starlink satellites in orbit. Unfortunately, a solar storm five days later caused thirty-eight of the satellites to experience an atmospheric drag, keeping their electric propulsion systems from raising their orbit. The satellites re-entered the atmosphere soon after.

SpaceX soon discovered that the cause of failure for the satellites in the solar storm was that they were placed at too low of an altitude, which was approximately 130 miles (210 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.

SpaceX typically deploys Starlink satellites into low orbits so they can quickly fall back into Earth’s atmosphere, burning up upon reentry. This ensures the prevention of space pollution. Additionally, Falcon 9 can carry more Starlink satellites on a single mission if it targets a lower altitude.

This time around, the rocket carried three fewer satellites than the previous mission, which enabled the satellites to be placed at an altitude of between 202 and 209 miles (325 to 327 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface to avoid any further complications with solar storms.

SpaceX has previously launched around 2,100 Starlink satellites into orbit, and about two hundred have fallen from the sky from complications. They currently have approval to launch 12,000 Starlink craft and applied for 30,000 more.

SpaceX will gear up for another launch on February 25 from Vandenberg Space Force Base. The company is currently preparing to launch even more satellites with a new Starlink mission.

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue reading on the app
Expand article