Elon Musk’s SpaceX Satellites Destroyed by Intense Space Storm

by Michael Freeman

Elon Musk’s company SpaceX recently sent up another batch of its Starlink satellites for readily available internet access. However, an intense space storm “significantly impacted” them, rendering them unusable.

The Sun reports 40 of the 49 Starlink satellites launched last week will disintegrate as they de-orbit Earth and disintegrate in the atmosphere. The problem occurred because of a geomagnetic storm that hit Earth’s magnetosphere on February 4. This raised atmospheric drag and prevented the satellites from going into orbit. As such, Earth’s gravitational pull will bring them toward the planet and they will burn up in the atmosphere.

“Unfortunately, the satellites deployed on Thursday were significantly impacted by a geomagnetic storm on Friday,” SpaceX’s website reads. “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.”

Though the company had the satellites enter a “safe-mode” to minimize the drag, it wasn’t enough to save them. “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.”

Estimates suggest each satellite costs SpaceX $250,000 to build and launch. This means the storm could cost the organization as much as $10 million. As of now, SpaceX intends to eventually put 12,000 satellites into orbit, though it could rise to 42,000 eventually.

Though the Starlink initiative suffered a setback having its newest satellites put out of commission, the endeavor is still going strong. So strong, in fact, SpaceX announced a “premium” tier for the service.

The official website provides specifics, noting how it compares to the standard service. “Starlink Premium has more than double the antenna capability of Starlink, delivering faster internet speeds and higher throughput for the highest demand users, including businesses,” the website reads.

SpaceX assures customers they will have improved hardware, priority support, and faster service speeds. For example, download speeds will range from 150 megabits per second to 500, compared to the standard’s 100 to 200 Mb/s. Latency will also be tighter, ranging from 20 milliseconds to 40 milliseconds.

The big question though is how much does it cost? They call it premium for a reason. It requires a $500 refundable deposit, a $2,500 antenna and router fee, plus the monthly fee is $500. For reference, the standard service is $99 a month, with a $499 hardware fee and a $99 refundable deposit.

Those interested can preorder now and expect it in the second quarter of this year.