A storm caused Elon Musk’s SpaceX to lose hundreds of satellites, killing the majority of a freshly launched fleet as they drifted back toward Earth. According to SpaceX’s website, a geomagnetic storm struck 40 of the 49 Starlink low-orbit satellites launched on Feb 3 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida the next day.
According to the company, the afflicted satellites have re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere or are on route to do so, burning up in the process. According to SpaceX, this means no orbital debris is created and no parts fall to the ground.
The storm, according to SpaceX, raised the temperature and density of the atmosphere to the point where the drag on the satellites was 50 percent more than in prior flights. The business stated that attempts to salvage the satellites by flying them “edge-on” like a sheet of paper to avoid the brunt of the storm failed.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a geomagnetic storm is a large disturbance of Earth’s magnetosphere. According to NOAA, they’re generated by strong solar winds that cause changes in the magnetosphere’s currents, plasmas, and fields.