Published: Fri, May 31, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

SpaceX starts launching Starlink satellites for global internet system

SpaceX starts launching Starlink satellites for global internet system

Whatever it is you see when you look at this, we should all be able to agree that it's an unusual sight to behold in the night sky.

Others, such as NASA's Doug Ellison - who, it should be noted, speaks only for himself here and not for NASA as a whole - take more of a position on what Starlink means for our ability to appreciate the night sky.

SpaceX's newly-launched train of Starlink satellites is doing something unexpected.

However, after the excitement calmed down, astronomers both professional and amateur seem to have concerns about the Starlink constellation obstructing their view of space and all its mysteries.

Launching 60 satellites at once might seem a bit over-the-top but SpaceX plans to launch well over 10,000 of them before it's done. Within a few hours it was confirmed that telemetry had been received from each of the satellites.

SpaceX said on Twitter, "Falcon 9 launches 60 Starlink satellites to orbit - targeting up to 6 Starlink launches this year and will accelerate our cadence next year to put ~720 satellites in orbit for continuous coverage of most populated areas on Earth".

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But astronomers told Forbes they worry the firm's Starlink satellites will interfere with gathering of imagery.

The above tweet is the start of a lengthy thread that we won't embed here in its entirety.

The mercurial Musk responded to the debate on Twitter with contradictory messages, pledging to look into ways to reduce the satellites' reflectivity but also saying they would have "0 per cent impact on advancements in astronomy" and that telescopes should be moved into space anyway.

But thousands of internet-beaming satellites also pose a risk to other satellites in orbit, according to a report earlier this month in Scientific American. However, it would still represent a significant percentage of the overall operational satellites in orbit.

"A worst-case scenario would be the Kessler syndrome, a positive feedback loop in which debris-generating collisions create more and more collisions, which in turn create more and more debris, rendering parts of Earth orbit essentially unusable".

"There were no orbital elements for the objects available yet on Space-Track, but based on the orbital information (53 degree inclination, initially 440 km orbital altitude) I had calculated a search orbit and stood ready with my camera", Langbroek wrote in a blog post on May 25.

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