It’s been a little over a month since SpaceX launched 21 mini versions of its next-generation Starlink satellites, but it appears that one of those little guys just couldn’t cling to orbit any longer.
The Starlink satellite designated as 30062 reentered Earth’s atmosphere on Monday at 4:50 a.m. ET off the coast of California, according to a tweet from Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist who keeps tabs on SpaceX’s internet satellites. The satellite very likely burned up during its reentry.
Three of the Starlink V2Mini sats (30058, 30042, 30051) have resumed orbit raising, while Starliink 30062 reentered at 0850 UTC Apr 3 off the coast of California pic.twitter.com/viv6daE4Gv
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) April 3, 2023
McDowell noted on Twitter that three of the Starlink V2 Minis were raising their altitudes in the attempt to reach their designated operational orbits, while one underwent a controlled deorbit manoeuvre. Other observers have also been monitoring the V2 Minis since their launch, including the unofficial SpaceX guide Starlink Insider, which noted the satellite’s deorbit trajectory before it reentered.
It appears that two of the V2 Mini’s are beginning to orbit raise towards their designated shell while one (30062) is already on a trajectory for controlled deorbit. pic.twitter.com/aZsonTRHNl
— Starlink Insider (@starlinkinsider) April 3, 2023
Last month, Starlink Insider was among the first to notice that the recently launched batch of satellites were slowly falling instead of rising. In response to speculation regarding the condition of the V2 Minis, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to clarify that the satellites were “experiencing some issues” and that some of them will be deorbited while others would still be tested. The recently deorbited V2 Mini could be the first of more to come, but we currently don’t know for certain.
SpaceX launched 21 next generation Starlink satellites on board a Falcon 9 rocket on February 27. The company calls them V2 Minis, as the units are miniaturized versions of the company’s full-sized, next generation Starlinks. The V2 Minis are meant to help SpaceX increase the capacity of its internet megaconstellation, filling the gap for the increasing demand of Starlink until the company is able to launch batches of its full-sized next-generation satellites.
However, in order to do that, SpaceX needs to see its heavy-lift Starship rocket take to the skies. The company’s currently operational Falcon 9 rocket is not designed to carry the next-generation satellites, prompting SpaceX to create the diminutive versions. SpaceX was reportedly planning on launching a second batch of V2 Minis last month, but it’s unclear where the company now stands on its miniature satellites.
Want to know more about Elon Musk’s space venture? Check out our full coverage of SpaceX’s Starship megarocket and the SpaceX Starlink internet satellite megaconstellation Twitter and bookmark Gizmodo’s dedicated Spaceflight page.
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