This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 19 °C Sunday 31 May, 2020
Advertisement

SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites to test less reflective coating

Observatory director Jeff Hall said the satellites will be a growing risk to stargazers in the future.

US ROCKET COMPANY SpaceX, headed by billionaire Elon Musk, launched 60 more mini internet satellites late last night to test a dark coating to appease stargazers.

It’s a “first step” compromise between SpaceX and astronomers fearful of having dark skies spoiled by hundreds and, eventually, thousands of bright satellites circling overhead.

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted into the sky, recycled by SpaceX for its fourth flight.

As the first-stage booster flew to a vertical landing on an ocean platform, the Starlink satellites continued hurtling toward orbit to join 120 similar spacecraft launched last year.

An hour later, all 60 satellites were free of their upper stage and making their own way in orbit.

The commentator’s Starlink fleet now numbering 180, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk plans to ultimately launch thousands of these compact flat-panel satellites to provide global internet service.

Each spacecraft weighs 260 kilograms.

After the first Starlink batch of 60 was launched in May and the second in November, astronomers complained how the bright satellite chain was hampering their observations.

In response, SpaceX came up with a darkening treatment to lessen reflectivity. The coating is being tested on one of the newly launched satellites.

Jeff Hall, director of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, said the Starlinks have been just an occasional problem so far, but noted the risk to stargazing will grow as the constellation expands and other companies launch their own fleets.

He heads the American Astronomical Society’s committee on light pollution, space debris, and radio interference and is working with SpaceX on the issue.

He said it’s too soon to know whether the dark coating will work, “but it definitely is just a first step and not enough to mitigate the issues astronomy will experience with the Starlinks.”

The Starlinks are initially placed in a relatively low orbit of 290 kilometetres, easily visible as a long, strung-out cluster parading through the night sky.

Over a few months, krypton-powered thrusters raise the satellites to a 550 kilometre orbit.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

The higher the orbit, the less visible the satellites are from the ground, according to SpaceX. The company said it is supplying astronomy groups with the satellite coordinates in advance so they can avoid the bright flyover times.

Already established in launching satellites for others and making space station deliveries for NASA, SpaceX is among several companies looking to provide high-speed, reliable internet service around the world, especially in places where it’s hard to get or too expensive.

SpaceX may start service later this year in the US and Canada, before expanding to the world’s most populated areas after 24 launches.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Associated Press

Read next:

COMMENTS (22)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel