Strongly increased chance of satellite reentries the coming days

From: Marco Langbroek via Seesat-l <>
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2022 13:35:49 +0100
Helmets on everybody.... ;-)

There is an increased chance of seeing a reentry the coming days. Some 40 
Starlink satellites from the very recent Feb 3 launch are coming down.

The reason is a solar storm a day after the launch. This prevented the 
satellites, initially deployed in a very low orbit, to raise their orbits in time.

So now almost all of them will reenter. It are uncontrolled reentries.

Some have already reentered (e.g. the Puerto Rico event of Feb 7, many more will over the coming 

This is an update from SpaceX itself on it:


February 8, 2022

On Thursday, February 3 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. Falcon 9’s second stage deployed the satellites into their 
intended orbit, with a perigee of approximately 210 kilometers above Earth, and 
each satellite achieved controlled flight.

SpaceX deploys its satellites into these lower orbits so that in the very rare 
case any satellite does not pass initial system checkouts it will quickly be 
deorbited by atmospheric drag. While the low deployment altitude requires more 
capable satellites at a considerable cost to us, it’s the right thing to do to 
maintain a sustainable space environment.

Unfortunately, the satellites deployed on Thursday were significantly impacted 
by a geomagnetic storm on Friday. These storms cause the atmosphere to warm and 
atmospheric density at our low deployment altitudes to increase. In fact, 
onboard GPS suggests the escalation speed and severity of the storm caused 
atmospheric drag to increase up to 50 percent higher than during previous 
launches. The Starlink team commanded the satellites into a safe-mode where they 
  would fly edge-on (like a sheet of paper) to minimize drag—to effectively 
“take  cover from the storm”—and continued to work closely with the Space 
Force’s 18th  Space Control Squadron and LeoLabs to provide updates on the 
satellites based on  ground radars.

Preliminary analysis show the increased drag at the low altitudes prevented the 
satellites from leaving safe-mode to begin orbit raising maneuvers, and up to 40 
  of the satellites will reenter or already have reentered the Earth’s 
atmosphere.  The deorbiting satellites pose zero collision risk with other 
satellites and by  design demise upon atmospheric reentry—meaning no orbital 
debris is created and  no satellite parts hit the ground. This unique situation 
demonstrates the great  lengths the Starlink team has gone to ensure the system 
is on the leading edge  of on-orbit debris mitigation.

- Marco

Dr Marco Langbroek  -  SatTrackCam Leiden, the Netherlands.

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Received on Wed Feb 09 2022 - 06:36:51 UTC

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