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Science And Nature

SpaceX Starlink satellites face Russia space debris ‘squalls’ in orbit: report

rocket lifting off from launch pad with clouds billowing around

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying Starlink satellites blasted off on July 17, 2022.(Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s Starlink constellation faced a Russian space debris “squall” on Aug. 6, in accordance with a media report.

SpaceX satellites in the Starlink constellation came near debris generated by way of a Russian anti-satellite test in November, Dan Oltrogge, chief scientist at COMSPOC, said at a Secure World Foundation event through the Small Satellite Conference Monday (Aug. 8). The story was initially reported by SpaceNews (opens in new tab).

The business, which tracks space objects and generates reports for clients, said bits of the now-destroyed Cosmos 1408 satellite are lining up with satellites launched in a sun-synchronous orbit, meaning an orbit that keeps sunlight at a continuing altitude in accordance with Earth.

Oltrogge, calling the close encounter Starlink event a “conjunction squall,” said his company spotted a lot more than 6,000 close approaches affecting 841 satellites, representing about 30% of the constellation. (SpaceX has emphasized its Starlinks can maneuver, but didn’t touch upon the story or whether any Starlinks were affected.)

Conjunctions by COMSPOC standards are thought as two objects being within 6 miles or 10 kilometers of every other.

The brand new squall was partly generated by SpaceX launching a fresh group of satellites, termed Group 3, which are in an identical orbit to other sun-synchronous satellites which have come near ASAT debris previously. “It is the very orbit that’s jeopardized by the ASAT,” Oltrogge said.

SpaceX has recently sent two satellite group members into orbit on July 10 and July 22, both from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, SpaceNews said. A third clutch of satellites in this group is likely to launch Friday (Aug. 12).

Starlink has five orbital “shells” or layers, in accordance with Teslarati (opens in new tab), with each one of these differing by orbital altitude alongside orbital inclination, meaning the angle between your orbit and the Earth’s equator. Group 3 is reported to be at an inclination of 97.6 degrees and at an altitude of 347 miles (560 km.)

SpaceX is not immune to criticism about space debris concerns generated alone, however. In August 2021, when Starlink was much smaller as a constellation, a respected European expert on space debris said the satellites were in charge of over fifty percent of close encounters in orbit.

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is really a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to greatly help others explore the universe. Elizabeth’s on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from the simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada’s Carleton University. Elizabeth can be a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got thinking about space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, but still really wants to be an astronaut someday.

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