- Spacelink Starlink satellites have taken over the low-orbit on Earth, experts told Insider.
- There are apparently 1,300 Starlink satellites in lower orbit and 300 from other bodies.
- “We’re not at the end of the world yet but it’s a bad situation,” said another space researcher.
- See more stories on the Insider business page.
SpaceX is fast deploying its worldwide Starlink internet network with rocket launches happening every month.
Rapidly increasing the number of satellites in orbit, space industry experts believe that the space company Elon Musk increases the risk of crashes between space objects, generating an abundance of debris.
SpaceX’s StarX has exploded about 1,300 satellites into orbit and plans to make a megaconstellation of up to 42,000 spacecraft by mid-2027.
In October, Starlink launched the Better Than Nothing Beta trial across the North of the US for $ 99 per month, plus $ 499 for the hook. It now operates in over six countries and has over 10,000 users worldwide.
Starlink has previously stated that its satellites can avoid crashes by using an ion driver, which allows it to avoid other objects in orbit. But if the communications or operation of the satellites in orbit fail, they pose threats to space traffic.
In the lower part of the Orbital Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Starlink satellites are “completely in control of the number of space objects,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronaut at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Insider Tuesday.
He said there are about 300 more satellites in the lowest LEO, including the International Space Station, compared to the 1,300 Starlink satellites.
“There’s a point where so many of them move all the time that it’s a threat to traffic” in space, McDowell said, adding that the high risk of a catastrophe can cause a catastrophe, creating garbage.
Each satellite travels at 18,000 miles per hour and all travel in different directions, according to McDowell. If they break into each other, it sends hypersonic motions through the satellites and reduces them to thousands of pieces of shrapnel that then form a shell around the Earth, he said.
This will pose a threat to other space users and prevent astronauts from observing the skies.
McDowell reported in November that 2.5% of Starlink satellites may have failed in orbit. This may not feel bad in the grand scheme of things. But if this issue continues, there could be more than 1,000 dead satellites in SpaceX’s planned constellation.
It is expected that 10,000 satellites will be launched in the next ten years
John Auburn, managing director of Astroscale UK, an orbital debris removal company headquartered in Tokyo, said in a press release on March 17 that more than 10,000 satellites are expected to be launched in the next 10 years .
McDowell said satellite companies may have some “weird surprises” if they get this level of satellites in orbit. He said companies should stop launching satellites when the amount hits 1,000 and monitor them for a while to see if any problems arise, such as design defects.
A “total catastrophe” could be on the horizon, McDowell said.
But this is not bad news. Daniel Oltrogge, director at the Center for Space Standards and Innovation, told Insider that it is advantageous for Starlink satellites to have the lowest LEO because they can be removed more quickly if they fail.
Oltrogge said the space waste case is not a fault. Consumers anywhere, including governments, and commercial and civic companies, have all contributed to this picture of space debris today, he said.
There are many problems to deal with, Oltrogge said, involving satellite operators complying with guidelines that help reduce collision risks, improving location sensing and spacecraft design, and switching more data between satellite companies.
But if we do not address the global space waste crisis, rather than at operator one, “we risk losing out as the environment declines,” according to Oltrogge.
“We’re not at the end of the world yet,” Oltrogge said. “But it’s a really bad situation that deserves scrutiny.”
Why SpaceX is one of the leading satellite surgeons
Compared to other private commercial satellite companies, SpaceX comes out on top. As of May 2019, 23 Starlink has launched via SpaceX’s FalX 9 rocket.
McDowell believes the acceleration of the company may be the responsibility of their CEO. “Elon doesn’t have to respond to a lot of people, he can make decisions effectively, he doesn’t have to dive around and get permission,” he said.
In addition to this, it has its own rockets to launch the satellites into orbit, McDowell said. This saves him time and money as he does not have to negotiate another start-up contract. The fact that the reusable rockets – the last Falcon 9 upgrade on Wednesday ‘s mission have been used six times – also makes it free for SpaceX to launch satellites.
“That’s an advantage that the other companies don’t have,” McDowell said.