Video follows below. As many as 40 Starlink satellites are currently falling out of the sky–the surprising result of a minor geomagnetic storm. SpaceX made the announcement yesterday:
“On Thursday, Feb. 3rd at 1:13 p.m. EST, Falcon 9 launched 49 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. … Unfortunately, the satellites deployed on Thursday were significantly impacted by a geomagnetic storm on Friday, [Feb. 4th].”
Most of the recent batch of Starlink satellites launched on February 3, 2022, may have reentered the Earth’s atmosphere, or will do it soon, as a recent geomagnetic storm prevented the satellites from reaching their intented orbit, SpaceX said.
As of February, over 2,000 Starlink satellites have been launched, as part of a constellation that provides satellite internet access to remote areas, and most of Earth. On February 3, 2022, a Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral with 49 new Starlink satellites, designated as group G4-7. Soon after the launch, satellite tracking experts suspected something went wrong, as the details of the orbit of these new satellites were not still published. In fact, it’s possible that one or more of the satellites reentered the atmosphere over the Caribbean recently.
This video from cameras that monitor the skies of Puerto Rico, from Sociedad de Astronomia del Caribe, shows an interesting event that appears to be related: first, an object is seen disintegrating, with noticeable fragmentation, which is characteristic of space debris. Impressive visuals are seen moments later, as just one minute later, a bigger object is seen in a spectacular disintegration event, and satellite tracking experts agree the event is probably related to the Starlink satellites launched on February 3, 2022.It turns out that a recent solar storm may be responsible.
“Unfortunately, the satellites deployed on Thursday were significantly impacted by a geomagnetic storm on Friday. These storms cause the atmosphere to warm and atmospheric density at our low deployment altitudes to increase. In fact, onboard GPS suggests the escalation speed and severity of the storm caused atmospheric drag to increase up to 50 percent higher than during previous launches. The Starlink team commanded the satellites into a safe-mode where they would fly edge-on (like a sheet of paper) to minimize drag—to effectively “take cover from the storm”—and continued to work closely with the Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron and LeoLabs to provide updates on the satellites based on ground radars.Preliminary analysis show the increased drag at the low altitudes prevented the satellites from leaving safe-mode to begin orbit raising maneuvers, and up to 40 of the satellites will reenter or already have reentered the Earth’s atmosphere. The deorbiting satellites pose zero collision risk with other satellites and by design demise upon atmospheric reentry—meaning no orbital debris is created and no satellite parts hit the ground.”, SpaceX said in a recent update.
Marco Langbroeg, a satellite tracking expert from the Netherlands, said:
“I did astrometry on the Puerto Rico sighting, and the orbital inclination fits the 53.2 degrees of the Starlink launch. My best guess still remains that this was one of the failed Starlink satellites from Feb 3.”
Each Starlink satellite has a size of 10.5 ft (3.2 meter) x 5.25 ft (1.6 meters) and weights 573 lbs. (260 kilograms). Some of the doomed satellites will be reentering the atmosphere during the next few days, and although it is still uncertain exactly where and when, just in case, keep looking up!
Article by Eddie Irizarry / Sociedad de Astronomia del Caribe (SAC) www.SociedadAstronomia.com