Elon Musk’s SpaceX to bring down 100 old Satellites to keep Space ‘Sustainable’

SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, announced on Tuesday its intention to deorbit 100 early-version 1 Starlink satellites as part of its commitment to maintaining space safety, sustainability, and accessibility. This initiative aims to safeguard astronauts and satellites in orbit, as well as the public on the ground.

The Starlink satellites, deployed by the company, facilitate relatively low-latency internet services by operating in a low-Earth orbit (LEO) at altitudes of less than 600 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. SpaceX asserts that its satellites are designed to naturally deorbit within five years or less in the event of operational failure in orbit. However, SpaceX has proactively commenced the controlled deorbiting process for 406 out of the nearly 6,000 satellites it has launched thus far. Ninety-five percent of these satellites have already descended from orbit, while 17 remain non-maneuverable. Despite their non-operational status, meticulous tracking measures are being implemented to ensure that these satellites do not pose collision risks to other satellites in orbit.

“The satellites will undergo a safe, circular, and controlled descent process, expected to span approximately six months for the majority of the vehicles,” stated the company in a released statement. “A controlled, propulsive deorbit is significantly shorter and safer compared to a ballistic deorbit from a similar altitude. Throughout the descent, all satellites will retain their maneuverability and collision avoidance capabilities. Furthermore, these deorbiting satellites will assume maneuvering responsibilities for any high-risk conjunctions in line with space safety and sustainability protocols.”

Space debris presents a dual threat to both existing satellites and astronauts in orbit, including those aboard the International Space Station and China’s Tiangong space station. At typical orbital velocities of approximately 35,000 kilometers per hour, debris as small as a plum can carry momentum akin to a car traveling on a highway. Additionally, collisions between debris fragments are common, exacerbating the proliferation of space debris.

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