Starlink Is De-Orbiting 100 Satellites After SpaceX Detected a Fault

Starlink Is De-Orbiting 100 Satellites After SpaceX Detected a Fault

Starlink, the satellite internet service offered around the world by SpaceX, has announced that it will de-orbit and decommission 100 satellites, after discovering what it calls a “common issue”.

Starlink’s plan to ‘de-orbit’ satellites is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a plan to, controllably, bring the satellites back down to Earth. It’s something that the Elon Musk-owned company does often – up to this point, 406 de-orbits have been performed by Starlink, and with almost 6,000 satellites currently orbiting the Earth (600km in the sky), it’s not something that’s expected to stop anytime soon. In orbit around the Earth, Starlink takes up some of the most space with its vast fleet, with about 8,000 satellites currently stuck in the Earth’s gravitational pull.

On this occasion, however, Starlink noted a problem with the satellites.

“The Starlink team identified a common issue in this small population of satellites, that could increase the probability of failure in the future,” SpaceX wrote in a statement.

While SpaceX didn’t elaborate on what the specific problem was with the satellites, it did note in a section of its statement titled ‘Commitment to space sustainability’ that it proactively deorbits satellites “that are identified to be at an elevated risk of becoming non-maneuverable”.

On the bright side, it’s unlikely that these de-orbiting Starlink satellites will pose a threat to anybody on the ground.

“Starlink satellites are also fully demisable by design, meaning that the risk to those on the ground, in the air, or at sea from a deorbiting satellite is effectively zero as the satellites burn up during reentry,” Starlink said.

The space company did note that the removal of these satellites “comes at the cost of losing satellites that are serving users effectively”, though the company believes it’s the right thing to do “to keep space safe and sustainable”.

Additionally, the space company claims that it can launch more than 200 satellites per month, and build 55 in a week, adding that Starlink’s customer experience will not be impacted.

Starlink is a really interesting service that is well-positioned as an NBN alternative in Australia (particularly in regional and rural areas where NBN alternatives are few). Australian plans are, however, quite expensive, at $139 per month, plus a $600 equipment cost and a $150 delivery fee. Telstra and Optus have both signed deals with Starlink to improve network capabilities.

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