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SpaceX launches new satellites weeks after up to 40 fell out of orbit

(NEXSTAR) — Less than three weeks after up to 40 satellites fell out of orbit shortly after launch, SpaceX sent another 46 skyward.

SpaceX announced on Monday that 46 more Starlink satellites were lifted into orbit in a launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. This was the fourth Starlink mission launch in 2022.

Earlier in February, SpaceX announced that up to 40 of its satellites were to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere after being hit by a geomagnetic storm. According to SpaceX, the satellites were deployed to their intended orbit and each achieved a controlled flight.

The next day, however, a geomagnetic storm hit. During these storms, the atmospheric density where the satellites are deployed has increased. With rapidly changing conditions, SpaceX’s Starlink team put the satellites into safe mode, helping them “get out of the storm.”

Unfortunately, SpaceX reports that a preliminary analysis revealed the increase in drag at low altitudes where the orbit of the satellites prevented them from exiting their safe mode. For this reason, up to 40 of the launch satellites had to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

While it may seem intimidating to think of satellites breaking out of orbit and heading towards Earth, don’t expect to see debris landing on your lawn.

The company says de-orbited satellites “pose no risk of collision with other satellites and, by design, disappear upon atmospheric re-entry.” This means no debris is created and the parts won’t hit the ground, according to SpaceX. If a satellite runs into trouble, it quickly de-orbits and burns up in the atmosphere, preventing any “space junk”.

Starlink satellites are used to provide high-speed Internet access to customers around the world. SpaceX has about 2,000 satellites orbiting Earth, with the first launched in 2019.


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