SpaceX will launch another round of Starlink satellites, after the last batch got taken out by a solar storm.
This latest batch will launch this weekend from FL. One of the space company’s Falcon 9 rockets is set to liftoff from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Base Launchpad 40 at 11:13 a.m. tomorrow, February 20.
Forecasters are predicting a 90% chance of good weather for the launch. There’s a potential for clouds and a few rain showers in Central Florida today, but the system should move past Cape Canaveral by tomorrow’s launch time. At present, the biggest weather concern is liftoff winds and cumulus cloud cover. If the launch does need to be delayed, Monday’s weather is supposed to also be favorable.
Solar Storm Knocks Out Last Round of Starlink Satellites
This launch comes only a week after 40 SpaceX were affected by a solar storm. The space company launched 49 Starlink satellites around the same time that the storm hit. Thus, the majority of them have re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. Effectively, they are a loss.
These storms are caused by solar flares. When they occur, the Earth’s atmosphere warms up and gets denser at some altitudes. As it just so happens, SpaceX’s satellites enter orbit around that same altitude.
Starlink’s team tried to save the bunch by putting them into “safe mode.” Typically, this reduces the drag the atmosphere has on the satellites. Unfortunately for SpaceX, the gravitational pull was too great. 40 of the 49 satellites have been lost due to the drag.
SpaceX’s Mission To Take Over the Skies
Those 40 Starlink satellites are a sad loss for the company. However, they’re a mere drop in the SpaceX bucket. The space company has almost 2,000 Starlink satellites in orbit. It’s taken them a little over three years to reach this number. This “constellation” of satellites provides high-speed internet to SpaceX customers.
According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the company has more than 250,000 Starlink customers across the globe. A Starlink internet kit will set you back $499. Kits are still available online to pre-order, but it looks like orders won’t be filled anytime soon. Fox Weather reports that new customers have been getting this message: “Starlink is currently at capacity in your area, so your order may not be fulfilled until 2023 or later.”
That’s his whole goal with Starlink – to provide internet to every corner of the world. However, that means launching a lot of satellites. 30,000 satellites, to be exact. As it just so happens, that idea doesn’t seem to appeal to most people that aren’t Elon Musk.
The company recently filed a proposal with the FCC for their 30,000-deep launch plan. NASA has some concerns about Musk’s plan to send up tens of thousands of Starlink satellites. According to the space agency, they could disrupt space traffic and even block potential asteroid warnings.