On Feb. 3, SpaceX launched 49 small satellites into low earth orbit as a part of its Starlink program, an advanced satellite internet service that, as with many other products and services pioneered by American billionaire Elon Musk, is at least a little controversial. The satellites were carried into the atmosphere without a problem and were deployed into their intended orbit, however, once they were orbiting, there was an anomaly in the earth’s atmosphere that caused the loss of all but nine of the quarter-ton satellites.
In a press release, SpaceX claims that a “geomagnetic storm” is the culprit. According to the company, this storm warmed and increased the density of the atmosphere at the 210-kilometer height the satellites were deployed at, increasing the drag on the orbiting hardware to an unsustainable degree. Measures were taken in an attempt to remedy this increase in drag, but these were mostly unsuccessful. Of the 49 satellites launched, 40 have allegedly either already fallen out of orbit or are in the process of doing so
SpaceX insists that they will not end up as space junk or indeed even impact the ground. It says that the lost hardware poses “zero collision risk with other satellites,” and that by design they will “demise upon atmospheric reentry.” So far, there have been no reported instances of Starlink units causing any damage to life or infrastructure on the ground. However, with plans to eventually launch over ten thousand of the small satellites into low earth orbit, the risk of a collision with an object in space will increase.
Source: Solar Storm Destroys 40 New SpaceX Starlink Satellites | The Drive