SpaceX takes a proactive step toward responsible behavior in orbit | Space

Starlink V2 Mini 760x380.jpeg

Enlarge / SpaceX’s V2 Mini Starlink satellites awaiting launch. Credit SpaceX.

SpaceX announced this week that it will voluntarily bring down about 100 of its first-generation Starlink satellites, which provide broadband Internet from low-Earth orbit, as part of its commitment to “space sustainability.”

The satellites are presently operational and serving Internet customers. However, in a statement, the company said, “The Starlink team identified a common issue in this small population of satellites that could increase the probability of failure in the future.”

This only represents a small fraction of the Starlink megaconstellation, which SpaceX has been launching on Falcon 9 rockets over the last half-decade. To date, SpaceX has put nearly 6,000 satellites into orbit a few hundred kilometers above the planet. This rapid growth in the company’s constellation has raised widespread concerns about the cluttering of low-Earth orbit and the potential for a profusion of debris.

Previously, SpaceX has initiated controlled de-orbits of 406 satellites. The vast majority of these have already entered Earth’s atmosphere and burnt up. However, 17 have become non-maneuverable. These are in decaying orbits and will eventually burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Until such time, they are being tracked to prevent collisions with other satellites.

In its announcement this week, SpaceX is saying it will bring down about 100 additional Starlink satellites.

Why is SpaceX doing this?

The company said it is being proactive in deciding to bring down satellites that are currently operational.

“While this proactive approach comes at the cost of losing satellites that are serving users effectively, we believe it is the right thing to do to keep space safe and sustainable—SpaceX encourages all satellite owners and operators to safely de-orbit satellites before they become non-maneuverable,” the statement said.

If nothing…

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