40 satellites of Elon Musk’s satellite Internet service Starlink, which were launched last week, have been destroyed by a geomagnetic storm.
The escalation speed and severity of the storm caused atmospheric drag to increase up to 50 percent higher than during previous launches, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Preliminary analysis shows 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 re-enter or already have reentered the Earth’s atmosphere,” SpaceX elaborated.
According to the company, the de-orbiting 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.
The company launched 49 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida onboard a Falcon 9 rocket on February 3.