The Starlink Incident

Posted: February 10, 2022 by oldbrew in Geomagnetism, satellites, solar system dynamics

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Looks like the risks were seriously underestimated if this was only a minor geomagnetic storm.

Spaceweather.com

Feb. 9, 2022: As many as 40 Starlink satellites are currently falling out of the sky–the surprising result of a minor geomagnetic storm. SpaceX made the announcement yesterday:

“On Thursday, Feb. 3rd at 1:13 p.m. EST, Falcon 9 launched 49 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. … Unfortunately, the satellites deployed on Thursday were significantly impacted by a geomagnetic storm on Friday, [Feb. 4th].”

Two days before launch a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field. It was not a major space weather event. In fact, the weak impact did not at first spark any remarkable geomagnetic activity. However, as Earth passed through the CME’s wake, some sputtering G1-class geomagnetic storms developed. It was one of these minor storms that caught the Starlink satellites on Feb. 4th.

Geomagnetic storms heat Earth’s upper atmosphere. Diaphanous tendrils of warming air literally reached up…

View original post 159 more words

Comments
  1. gbaikie says:

    Well the Thermosphere has warming, recently:
    Thermosphere Climate Index
    today: 11.57×1010 W Cool
    Max: 49.4×1010 W Hot (10/1957)
    Min: 2.05×1010 W Cold (02/2009)
    https://www.spaceweather.com/
    And that increase the atmospheric density in Low Earth orbit.

    Or solar Max has increase drag on satellites, and I was wondering
    when the beginning of Solar Max would start having this effect, and it appears, it
    was a few days ago.

  2. oldbrew says:

    Magnetometer readings obtained by Stuart Green in Preston UK highlight the delay between the CME impact on Feb. 9th and geomagnetic unrest on Feb. 10th (image below).

    The CME itself caused no obvious ripple in Green’s recording. Nevertheless, a storm was coming; G1 conditions were detected for more than 6 hours on Feb. 10th. Interestingly, the Starlink Incident of Feb. 4th was caused by just such a delayed storm. [bold added]

    https://spaceweather.com/archive.php?view=1&day=11&month=02&year=2022

  3. Bloke down the pub says:

    Starlink satellites are particularly vulnerable, especially in the early stages of deployment. They are launched in big batches of around 50-60 at a time, depending on the target orbit, into a low orbit. The way they are released, together with orbital mechanics , smear the group out so that they are evenly spaced around the orbit. They then raise their orbit to the neccesary altitude using onboard ion thrusters. When the impact of the cme was realised, the decision was taken to leave the satellites in a coast mode to minimize drag. Unfortunately, when they tried to reposition them afterwards, their small attitude control mechanisms were not strong enough to overcome the resistance offered by the thicker atmosphere and being unable to deploy their solar panels and fire the ion thrusters, they were dragged back down to burn up.

  4. oldmanK says:

    Video; “Most of the recent batch of Starlink satellites launched on February 3, 2022, may have reentered the Earth’s atmosphere, —-”

  5. Phil Salmon says:

    Geomagnetic storms heat Earth’s upper atmosphere. Diaphanous tendrils of warming air literally reached up and grabbed the Starlink satellites.

    We’re told that convection only happens in the troposphere. This makes it look like – with the help of solar CME’s, the atmosphere can experience convective currents all the way up to the exosphere.

    This further dents the narrative that heat movement in the atmosphere is only radiative.

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